The Passing of a Good Friend…

Our dear friend and former pastor, Rev. Edward J. Hayes, died on Saturday, July 17, 2010. 

Our parish has some nice pictures of Father with family and friends at http://www.stanthonyschadwicks.org/

Below is my eulogy...

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I was finishing up my last year of college, engaged to be married the following summer and ready to take on the world as a new college graduate.  I would be returning home soon, back to the parish of my youth, without the familiar face and humming of Msgr. Thomas Doran.

Father Hayes had recently begun his ministry in our parish.  His parish meetings were well attended and he gave people a chance to express their desires and hopes for the future.  Most of us had recent memory of only a few, very beloved priests, so we didn’t know what to expect.  It didn’t take long for this “seasoned” priest with a law degree to take us on.  Having come from an ethnic parish in Syracuse, Father Hayes came with a song in his heart and a desire to lead a parish into full and active participation. That was his goal and that was his cause.  He was able to do that while teaching us, leading us, caring for us, crying with us, sharing everything he was physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So, I received a call, “Sean… this is Father Hayes.  Sean, I was talking to your mother (oh boy – what is this about?) and she mentioned that you might be able to help out with our choir (oh no...).  Of course, we can work out the details later, but I just wanted to make sure you would be able to help us out.”

First of all, how do you say no to anything your mom was involved in?  Second, how can anyone say no to a priest?  If I could, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today.  I also would not be involved in music ministry.  Father Hayes knew what it took to pull me out of my own shell and encourage me to use my talents.  He had that way about him.  He could take someone who showed the tiniest talent in something, anything and support them and encourage them with words and example to blossom into what God had been calling them to.  He had that way about him.

I loved to talk to Father about music, especially when he would challenge me on music selections.  I remember one day, Father Hayes telling me about an
article he had read about the Glory to God and how it would be best sung all the way through instead of the Glorias that have refrains.  He put me to task to find a good version that we could sing as a congregation.  He wanted the congregation to sing everything as much as possible.  If we could get that one person to sing, it would be worth it.  And he took great pride in seeing that obstinate person who sits in the pew, never opening his mouth, finally coming to receive the Lord in the Eucharist, several years later, singing his heart out.

Anyway, I had no luck finding a good singable Gloria, so I asked if he would mind if I wrote one.  He was surprised and said he would like to hear it before we sang it.  I played it for him.  Then, we sang it together at Mass.  Everyone sang.  It was amazing!  I could see Father directing it (I don’t think he realized he was doing it) as he sang in full voice.  That was his way, too.  To lead by example.  If the priest doesn’t sing, how can he expect the people to sing?  I loved that encouragement.

And when we had special liturgies or events, Father took great pride in this tiny little parish that was so full of amazing talent and skill.  He used parishioners to fashion the altar, presider’s chair and ambo.  He delighted in bassoons, flutes and trombones.  He took great joy in little children who always knew that “Jesus was the Shepherd who went in search for his one lost sheep”.  You could feel the joy he experienced as “Jesus used Father Hayes’ ears and voice” in the sacrament of reconciliation, especially when one second grader exclaimed as she left the confessional - “I DID IT!” And Father Hayes helped her and most of us through the sacraments for so many years.

Father Hayes, the Father Hayes we knew at St. Patrick’s - St. Anthony’s was deeply intellectual, sometimes funny (depending on your sense of humor), strongly opinionated, challenging in every way, but as soft and gentle as a person could be, especially when it mattered most.

I believe Father Hayes had a special ministry for the hurting.  We experienced it with the death of my mom.  At the moment of my mother’s death, my first call was to our dear friend and pastor.  He had been through much of the rollercoaster ride of the cancer journey with us.  He had been inspired by my mother’s strength and courage.  He seemed to have even shared in the plight of my younger brothers and sister who now, at a young age, had lost their mom.  And now, he could share with us in the breaking of our hearts and the loss of our rock.  He could now be an ever-present rock for us.  He could represent the one, true rock that we could cling to in the midst of the “whys” and “hows” that so often come with death.  He was able to bring the sacraments into our home.  And, he was able to make our parish church our home.  Father was able to share these intimate moments over his years as our pastor with so many of us.  Each of us, who has experienced this side of Father Hayes, can probably remember clearly his gentleness in these difficult times.

Father Hayes was present to all of us when we were experiencing our deepest grief.  And he made sure that we were encouraged and left feeling hopeful. He would regularly choose John’s Gospel for funerals so, as he proclaimed the Gospel from memory (as he always did every Sunday), he could remind us that Jesus would come back for us and take us to the place He had prepared for us.  Because his faith was so strong during times when we might question our own faith, we could draw from the depth of his faith.  He inspired us to keep believing and reaching out to our merciful God who understood our pain. He never diminished our feelings and emotions, and while he accepted us where we were, he gave us strength and hope.

I remember so many things about Father Hayes, especially the way he taught us.  To Father, his primary responsibility was his preaching.  Like it or not, Father Hayes was going to lay it all out there for us even if it took a long time to do it.  I remember he always told me that his homilies were always the same length.  Once in a while, when people started passing out at Mass, he would cut them short by a couple sentences.  But it truly was his passion.  Sometimes I wonder if some of us lose sight of the way people would gather on a hillside to listen to Jesus’ preaching - all day long - without food or air conditioning or comfortable seats.  Almost like He had something important to say.  And I think Father Hayes wanted people to know that Jesus does have something important to say, each and every time we come to Mass, if we just take the time to listen.

Father Hayes was also able to teach us without telling us that that is what he was doing.  He led our parish into a new era, one where fewer priests meant we all had a stake in the mission of the Church, both here in the Sauquoit Valley and in our world.  He could have retired, and had planned to after tearfully sharing with some of us that he had been diagnosed with cancer.  Although he had planned to retire, he reconsidered and led us for many more years - when we needed him the most.  But his suffering was evident at different times.  One could tell that it was so difficult for him, yet he wouldn’t complain.  Oh, he might rest more and have a stool to help him through Mass, but his answer to the question, “how are you doing, Father?” was usually “some days are better than others”.

But illness and treatments couldn’t keep him from the shepherding he still needed to do for us.  Many probably do not know that Father’s email name was
THARSEI, a Greek word that means “Be of Good Cheer” or “Cheer Up”.  And in the midst of his own struggles, he lived this theme.  But it is a deeper theme than just saying, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  It is all about Jesus. Jesus, who overcame the world, this world with all its sorrows and pain, this world where there is death and loss and cancer.  Jesus says:  “I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have oppression; but cheer up! (THARSEI) I have overcome the world.” Imagine our Gospel-memorizing pastor proclaiming those words to us.  Cheer Up!

Father Hayes’ nephew Brian shared something with my wife before we went to visit with Father Hayes last week.  He said that Father had told him that he
was not afraid to die.  That he had lived his whole life for this moment.  And that he was looking forward to it.  I can just imagine this man.  This priest, who “stood in Jesus’ place” for so many years at the Altar.  Now, he gets to meet him face to face.  Imagine Father Hayes’ joy.

Our hearts were heavy when we saw our pastor and friend hurting with cancer.  Our hearts were heavy when Father retired because we knew we would miss him and that change would be hard.  But he had prepared us for that.  Our hearts are heavy now, because of the great loss of such a wonderful man.  But our
hearts are full of the lessons and love he shared with us.  And so through our tears and heartache, we celebrate the life of Father Hayes.  A good priest.  A good man.  A good friend.  I wrote this song for my friend at his retirement, and now I sing it for him as we all say goodbye.

Goodbye, Old Friend
Goodbye_Old_Friend(2).mp3

V1 – Goodbye, Old Friend.  Goodbye, Old Friend.
It seems so many years since we first met on the road to Heaven.
Goodbye, Old Friend

V2 - Goodbye, Old Friend.  Goodbye, Old Friend.
I’ve learned so much from you along the way to Heaven and I’m so thankful
For you, my Friend

Bridge - And when doubt and fear consumed me and I couldn’t find my voice.
Then your words they reassured me and helped me sing my song about heaven

V3 - Goodbye, Old Friend.  Goodbye, Old Friend
Until at last the road rises up to bring us home to Heaven…
‘Til then, my Friend
Goodbye, My Friend
God be with you, My Friend.
Goodbye, Old Friend.

© 2009, Sean & Jennifer Clive


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