Friday, September 22, 2006

Funeral for a A Pastor

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. Jim Wright was pastor of St. Alexander Parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit for over 30 years. He decided the parish should be known as the Servant Church of St. Alexander, and the parishioners agreed to both the name and to living that name.

Jim was most hospitable. I was his guest after returning from theological studies and before my ordination for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Jim's concern for the poor, the marginalized, the ignored, the imprisoned as well as refugees shaped his life. Because he was pastor for such a span of years he affected many people. His affect on young people is both legendary, and in my view, his great legacy and gift to the church.

When I was Jim's guest I met some young people of the parish. Many of them are now spouses and parents. To Jim a youngster was as important as a bishop, a president or a generous benefactor. I recall him saying to me that Jesus taught him a great lesson when Jesus placed a child in the midst of his disciples. Jim always remembered that lesson and lived it. Yesterday, the number of young people present was felt. Some flew in from distances. As one gentleman told me as we waited to enter the cemetery chapel for the rite of commital, "We are all better for having known Fr. Jim."

Adam Cardinal Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, presided at Jim's funeral mass. Two other bishops and many priests joined him. Cardinal Maida was visibly moved by what he heard and saw. No one can replace Jim Wright. Everyone, especially all priests, can learn from him.

Rest in peace, Jim. May you enjoy everlasting life!

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