From Here to Eternity!
On Thursday May 14 two great men passed on. One did it his way, as he recorded for perpetuity in song, and the other did it God's way. One, was of course, Frank Sinatra, the legendary crooner, actor and philanthropist who was known by many monikers, mostly "Old Blue Eyes" and "Chairman of the Board." Though he had a questionable career moral-wise, in his later years he seemed to settle down and was loyal to his Church. That will be illustrated tomorrow morning when a solemn Mass will be celebrated in Southern California without all the fanfare one might expect from someone of his stature. The other will also have a solemn Holy Mass celebrated in Southern California, except it will be today. While one is known the world over, the other is really only known locally. The other is Monsignor Thomas Healy, pastor of Saint Mark's Parish in San Marcos, and our pastor since we relocated to the area. He was the major reason we chose St. Mark's because he exhibited all the virtues of a good and holy priest. The Masses and liturgy were in full accord with Rome and totally reverent. There was great devotion to Our Lady as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and devotions on First Fridays and First Saturdays. There was Daily Mass every day both at 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and only two priests assigned there, but they were always available for Mass and Confessions. Like the parish we left in Dallas Saint Pius X there were no liberal addendums or programs at this parish largely because of the leadership and shepherding of the pastors. At St. Pius X it was Monsignor Thomas Weinzapfel who had been there 41 years before retiring shortly before we left Texas. At St. Mark's it was Monsignor Tom who had been pastor there for 22 years. We had hoped and prayed he would be there much longer but God had other designs for this faithful and loyal priest who was born in Castlecomer in County Kilkenny, Ireland and educated at St. Kieran's College and seminary where he was ordained on the feast of the Visitation in 1959. He was assigned to the Diocese of San Diego where many of his fellow countrymen had been sent for the harvest of souls. This included Monsignor Tom Prenderghast who gave his good friend's eulogy last night.
After cutting his teeth on various parishes in San Diego and Riverside, then part of the San Diego Diocese he was assigned as pastor of St. Mark's Catholic Church on Discovery in San Marcos and the parishioners found quite a discovery in this gem from the emerald isle. We had known of him when we attended St. Francis and interacted with him through Knights of Columbus activities, but we really came to know and love him when we enrolled at St. Mark's upon our return to Southern California from Dallas. We felt so blessed that we had gone from one great, traditional and orthodox parish in Texas to the same here. As Father Ramon Marrufo, one time his assistant, now pastor of St. Francis, said last night in his tribute to Monsignor Tom, "He knew one language: the language of the Gospel which translated to the language of love." He was there for everyone and, as so many who spoke last night testified to, once he got to know you, he trusted you as a friend for life. We have lost a very dear friend. He encouraged us in our ministry at MIR-A-CALL Center and with the DAILY CATHOLIC and, just last week, offered any help he could to help keep the ministry afloat as we are experiencing a dire financial crunch. He was there for every parishioner, a man of deep faith and prayer who could be found more often in front of the Tabernacle praying then outside kibitzing with parishioners. He did plenty of the latter, but prayer and the Sacraments always came first in his deep love for Jesus and His Blessed Mother. Through his inspiration the parish grew dramatically over the years and he built a magnificent church that kept Christ centrally focused with one of the most beautiful, moving crucifixes one will ever see hanging above the altar. No modern or abstract art or architecture here, just the traditional environment in a modern edifice to honor God. The same with the parish hall and a mission parish a few miles away - they were simple, but functional and full of love and caring. The campus is a tribute to the Monsignor where the parish family will sorely miss this great man who was made a monsignor in May 1985.
It was ironic that just a few weeks ago on World Day of Prayer for Vocations before Mass one of the Lectors announced that there would be no priest for Mass that morning and only a Communion Service. He was, of course, saying that to wake the faithful to the fact that the Church is sorely in need of priests and that this scenario could indeed happen. We didn't realize how soon! Just a few days after Monsignor Tom's death, his only assistant at St. Mark's Father Aurelio Crisologo suffered a stroke and is presently in the hospital, leaving the parish currently without a priest. Though there will be 150 priests and Bishop Robert H. Brom presiding at Monsignor Tom's funeral Mass this morning, the Diocese, like so many dioceses around the country are desperate for priests. By tomorrow afternoon there will be no priests at St. Mark's and we have to pray the Bishop will appoint a pastor soon...if there are any eligible candidates out there. So pray for the family of St. Mark's and for vocations. As we have mentioned so often the Church is at a crisis period and vocations are a priority. Our Lady has said over and over that there will come a time that the Eucharist is scarce. We are coming to those times. Be prepared and pray. Pray for vocations and soon!
And so, we bury two great men this week; both with great pomp and circumstance. The circumstances surrounding the song Frank Sinatra wrote and sang - New York, New York, brings home a point. The lyrics went: "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." We like to think he was referring to our beloved pastor. Both, in their own way, made their mark in this world and, while one starred in the award-winning movie of 1953, the other is assured of fulfilling it's title with Oscars and Grammies aplenty in Heaven; for it is Monsignor Tom who is now truly experiencing his rewards...for he has faithfully completed that last road "From Here to Eternity."