Rememberance for Father Emmett by Neill Raymond
July 29, 2013
Remembrance for Father Emmett
By Neill Raymond
Greetings and sincere condolences to the family and friends of Fr Emmett,to Archbishop Brunette we thank you for lending us Fr. Emmett these past eight years, to his fellow priests, and my fellow parishioners. It is an honor to represent the parish in this way.
It is with a deep joy and gratitude to have known Fr Emmett over the years and I know all here feel the same…He has been a good shepherd to us. He was not a “hired man,” he gave his life for us…has lived his Christian mission as a great son of the church.
There was something very manly about Fr Emmett, kind of all the old time hero’s rolled up into one, Gary Cooper comes to mind in “Along Came Jones” – “Slow walkin’, slow talkin’, long, lean, lanky Jones. He came here and untied us from the railroad tracks.
He was a very stoic, humble man. I never heard him complain about anything.
I remember him fighting a chronic eye infection for months – it had to be painful he never even talked about it. Finally they removed his eye…We never knew about it until afterwards when he showed up with one eye gone.
The only thing he ever asked after that was to be sure and turn one of the upper lights on to his left so he could read the prayers. I still don’t know if all of us realized that he was blind in one eye.
I remember a conversation we had a couple of weeks ago, I was talking about how great it would be to attend our own funerals, like Huckleberry Finn.
He smiled a little bit to humor me, but then I remembered I have attended my own funeral. Every time Fr. Emmett presided at a funeral mass he made it seem like it was my own.
His words were always warm and sensitive and filled with joy of what awaits us…like a blacksmith he hammered out the iron of the words and fitted them to that family who needed the comfort and solace…and strength. But it was our funeral too…he took the sting out of death for everyone there.
And you could see the curtains raise from the eyes of those deeply mourning…This humble priest was giving them the “good news” almost like it was the first time they had heard it.
Father Emmett was a prayerful man, I walked up behind his car on the ferry once and saw him praying the rosary – he told me he prayed it every day. I thought it was such a simple, beautiful solidarity with all the meek of the world.
He definitely got me to thinking about becoming a better man.
Many of my fellow parishioners also sensed that certain goodness about him and wanted to imitate him. The old cliché, he was a good role model.
Whether it was visiting sick parishioners on his day off or instituting a new Mass at 7p.m. Sunday night after three other ones. Or coming out on a cold stormy night to Camp Indianola to say mass for the youth He was unselfish and brought Christ to us all as much as his strength would allow.
One of our parishioners became seriously ill and was taken to the VA hospital in Seattle. I went to visit him once just before he died and I asked if Fr Emmett has come out to see you? “Yes, he comes out every Monday,” he said.
Monday was Fathers only day off, and that would have been a lot of Mondays because this fellow lingered for a while.
I think of those Black Robed Jesuits who brought Christianity to Canada and South America, the intrepid, fearless, faithful men – Fr Emmett was a monster too, and I think would have been right at home with them.
That Faith Center up there? We all wanted it for years; he was the guy who finally nailed it down. There is a picture of him around here somewhere riding a D 8 CAT and wearing a yellow hard hat looking like one of those old Irish “sandhogs,” that built the subways and under the river tunnels in New York and all over our country.
He was really a quick study and could read someone like a book though you never knew you were being read.
I remember once he and I and some other people from the parish were walking a very unfriendly picket line.
Every now and then some people would tear by squealing tires and flippin’ the bird at us and yelling obscenities. I was a little worried because I was getting mad, but Fr Emmett just seemed like he was walking in a park and waved to every- one and smiled, I thought he was too innocent, too naive, he even started to look like Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy to me, all he needed was a bowler hat.
But after a while something peculiar began to happen. The same guys came back by again only this time they didn’t flip us off or yell obscenities they seemed to like the old priest with the friendly way. I think he was like an exotic animal to them. Something they had not seen before.
He was soft hearted except when it came to spelling or grammar, several times I was dressed down for my “cliff notes” intellect, I tried a time or two of going up against this real man of letters. Many a time I’ve walked away with my tale between my legs at my feeble attempts at profundity after being good-naturedly corrected by Fr. Emmett – a real teacher and intellect.
Even though, “You can be educated beyond your intelligence,” he drove me back to school. I still can’t write like him and he would say that my spelling still could improve, but I have had the honor of having been corrected by him over the years.
He gave the youth of the parish the Fireplace room in the new Faith Center he told us to take ownership of it and he backed us against all the fomenting forces of parish politics.
He loved those kids all of them – if you were under twenty one you could do no wrong – His homilies with the school kids on Benediction Fridays when they were all here for Mass were priceless, he was bringing them to Jesus and he presented to us all what a childlike heart truly was.
When he first came here I had just gotten a new job as a caretaker at an estate on Bainbridge – it was big and old, and yeah, it was haunted! I asked Father Emmett if he would come and bless the place…Thinking to myself that Jesuits probably didn’t do that kind of stuff anymore. I was a little self- conscious but I asked him anyway.
Much to my surprise he showed up one evening with a jug of holy water and all the other ghost busting accouterments and walked the whole twelve acres throwing that stuff everywhere, every nook and cranny.
All the ghosts took off. The place has never been the same – flowers bloom, gardens thrive, animals are fat, and the owners are happy…No small thing.
Wednesday, a Jesuit priest friend gave me a horse named Prince to care for out on the estate. Well, the young men I have working for me changed his name to “Emmett,” after we learned about Father Emmett’s passing, and he roams the pastures and corral like Father Emmett use to roam these familiar places. A benevolent presence and will always remind me of Father Emmett and all that holy water he sprinkled around.
The last thing he did for us before he left for his surgery was for the youth of the parish – he said, “Neill can you use that wood out there,” referring to the wood that was cut during the excavation out in back of the church. I said yes Father the Youthies have a mission coming up in Haiti, we could use it as a fundraiser – selling firewood, we could buck it and split it. he said ‘Okay it is yours.” then a minute or two later he emerged from his office and he said, “But Neill, I don’t think it would be a good idea to let the children use chain saws.”
I assured him I wouldn’t and that was the last time I saw him.
“Lay say lay bohn tohn roo lay” – Let the good times role.