Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Some people come into our life and go quickly. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same. Our dear Fr. Jim McGee’s illness and sudden passing away has left us in a state of shock. The reality of his death is still sinking into us. As a grateful Parish Community, we mourn his passing away, celebrate his memory and pray for the repose of his soul.
Jim was not simply a friend like other friends or an acquaintance like other acquaintances. He was one of us, our own dear Jim. He held a special place in our life and in the life of many of his friends who were family to him. He will continue to hold that special place in our hearts as he has given us so much to celebrate and be grateful for. His untimely passing away cannot and will not rob us of the good memories that he leaves behind. Nor will we forget the many things that he taught us as he ministered to us.
Hard as it is to sum up one's life in a couple of words, it becomes harder when it is Jim's life. Rather than talk to you about those aspects of Jim's life that you knew better than I did, I thought that I’d share with you the journey of faith, of renunciation and of pure abandonment that I witnessed Jim make.
In his book “The Virtue Driven Life”, Benedict J. Groeschel states that we human beings have three basic fears that drive us throughout our life: the fear of having nothing, the fear of having nobody and the fear of becoming no one. As Jim made his religious vows in the Sulpician Congregation and later was ordained a priest, he vowed to have nothing for himself, to have no family of his own and to surrender his will and intellect to God and his religious superior. This was Jim’s response to these three basic fears that we all face.
Yet, during his last three years, I saw Jim struggle with and take on courageously, two other fears: the loss of priesthood and the loss of personhood. He feared that as his memory failed him, he would not be able to celebrate the Eucharist, preach the Word or administer the other Sacraments, and therefore lose his priesthood. The second fear that he was preoccupied with was more basic: the fear of losing his personhood. He was afraid to lose his ability to recognize people, remember his day to day routine and communicate with people around him.
Some of his close friends and I spoke to him at length and frequently about this, reassuring him that this was not to be; that he was a priest forever, and that his personhood was something that could not be taken away from him. What put Jim at ease, finally, was his ability to trust God and his willingness to believe what we told him. It was consoling to see him at ease and at peace most of the time in his last days.
The one word that I kept whispering into Jim’s ears, as he neared the end of his life journey, is ‘trust’. “We do not know what waits for us on the other side, Jim, but we know who waits for us. In Him, we trust”, is what I repeated to him during my visits to him. And trust, he did.
Finally, I’d like to remind you of the words of St. Paul: “For I know the one that I have placed my trust in and I’m sure that he the just judge will take care of what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim 1:12). It’s faith in these words of St. Paul that gives me comfort now as I think of Jim and pray for him. I believe that the good Lord whom he served so joyfully and willingly, turns to him and says, “Well-done good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master!”
A word of appreciation and gratitude to all the members of the Staff and the Pastoral Leadership Councils, the Bereavement Hospitality and the Weekend Hospitality teams. It was heart-warming to see the ushers and greeters, the lectors and the EMEs and the Choir come together to celebrate the memory of our beloved Jim. Special thanks to Debbie Mellin,Tree Gorman, Maryanne Richards, Indira Pethebridge, John Dewes, Haleen Armijo, Kam Baloue and Robin Piantidosi just to name a few. Thanks, one and all.
Jim loved, and is loved much. I’ve no doubt that he’ll be long celebrated and remembered.
I pray for Jim and pray to Jim, and invite you to do the same.
Rest In Peace, Jim! You’ll be missed more than you can know.
United with you in prayer for Jim,
Fr. William Rosario