My former pastor, Father McDonough, passed away last evening. I'm not sure how old he was but the diocese web sites says he started his first assignment as parochial vicar in 1950. He was the pastor of the parish I have been in for the last 30 years, during the crucial time Mr. Pete and I were reverting back to our Catholic faith and having babies. He was always friendly and gentle with us and he made it easy for us to start coming to church every Sunday as a couple, and then with little babies and toddlers. By the time he left, I was the mother of three little boys, ages 6, 3 and newborn.
It's funny how little things stay in your mind about someone, but my favorite memory of Father McDonough involves a very small gesture.
At his farewell mass, someone (I think it was the parish school) gave him a beautiful stole vestment. They presented it to him after the final blessing and he promptly put it on and wore it as he joined the procession recessing back down the aisle.
I was standing in the cry room with my little boys, holding the 3 year old up so that he could witness everything, and when Father McDonough passed by the glass, he stopped and held up his stole for me to see it. He stopped for ME to see it. He stopped for ME - the mother in the cry room with three noisy little boys - as if it was important that I see that stole and nod my appreciation and approval. I don't know why that meant so much to me, but that little acknowledgement certainly did.
I look forward to listening to every one else's memories of this kind priest at his funeral next week.