7:30 PM - Spanish time.
Hello all from Spain. 2008 is almost through; thank the gods, as a friend of mine would say. I am writing from the SOHO Hotel in Barcelona with about 4 and a half hours left before we ring in 2009, Spanish style. It should be a great night. Before I head out and wrap up my December post for the IMNALY blog, I wanted to send out the eulogy that my sister Roseanne and I presented for my Uncle on Monday night. I was going to wait until I got back from my trip, but my gmail was flooded with request for a copy so I thought this would be the best forum in the short term.
Enjoy your New Years Eve, be safe and be well. Thanks to all for your continued support through this difficult time. Your words and warm wishes will stay with me forever.
Feliz Año Nuevo
The Collaboration of Love
By Brendan Noone & Roseanne Noone
Good evening everyone.
On behalf of my Mother Anne, my sister Roseanne, her husband Jim, my wife Alex and our daughters Emily & Julia, I thank each and every one of you for being here with us today to celebrate the life of my dear Uncle, Father William Andrew Wright.
I personally would like to take this time, on behalf of my family, to thank the good people of St. Bernadette’s parish. For the better part of the past 25 years this parish and its loving community have embraced my family as one of its own. You have never questioned us or our presence even when we received front row treatment at certain masses; you have only welcomed us and have made us a part of your flock.
I was married in this great church, as was my sister, just a little over a month ago, by the man that we celebrate here today. My Uncle always told me that I was an honorary member of his Parish and thanks to the kindness and support of the great people of Drexel Hill, I feel like one of you today. You will never know how much my Uncle (and we his family) love this community for that.
Love - A little word that means so very much.
Love – Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Rose Ferry Wright traveling across the Atlantic with 20 dollars and a dream, a 4 year olds smile on Christmas morning, the kind of love that the prophets’ Paul & John wrote of.
The kind of Love that fills up this room - with that smile, those warm eyes and a story; a hug, a blessing, a grab of an arm, a smile again and a laugh, that laugh which would fill up this church, the endless stream of sacred heart badges, the three Hail Mary’s, a tale about Ireland, or Rome or whichever traveled land reflected that specific moment; a prayer for a sick family member, a son off to college, an anniversary, a job lost, or a father passed away. A hug again, a kiss and a blessing. Then poof, he was off. On to another person, another soul needing to be saved, another friend in need of advice, another family requesting his time for a wedding or a funeral or a 50th anniversary; always tending to his flock, to his people, to his friends, with LOVE.
See I was here for many of these conversations, waiting in the wings for my Uncle after a mass, watching as he cared for all of you. Watching as he loved all of you for 25 years of his life and how you loved right back.
We would be walking down, right here, on Wright Way, to the Rectory, and he would tell me about some outfit he dressed up in for Halloween, a bright student, a kind Parish member or how he was looking forward to our dinner tonight and I knew that I would have 5 minutes alone with him to say hi and to talk. Then, it was back to the vocation. There weren’t many places to hide. He always had to be on.
I would ask him if he would be “wearing his Superman suit tonight.” He would say no, “civies tonight”….he needed a break and wanted to relax with his family. And we would go out and have one of those infamous 6 hour meals and talk and laugh and there would be the tales of Ireland and Rome or whichever traveled land reflected that specific moment. He was always on.
See when I was little, when I was young, William Andrew Wright was an Uncle to me first and a Priest second, I always wanted him as Clark Kent, incognito, not wearing the Superman suit, “the collar” as he would sometimes call it, while we were out. That way I knew I did not have to share him with everyone else. That way he could be mine.
As I got older, those feelings never really changed. I could never get enough of my Uncle Bill and his stories and the memories that he helped to create for me.
I always respected Superman and how he would try to save humanity, but I guess I always wanted Clark Kent to talk to; to have a glass of wine with and plan the next trip with and tell him I was getting married and that I wanted his blessing and that Alex and I were having a baby and we wanted him to baptize her and that he was a “Great Uncle” and that we just wanted to spend some time with him, so we could tell him that we loved him.
As I look back at my life with Father William Wright in it, I now realize just how very lucky my sister and I truly are. He brought so many wonderful people into our lives. He exposed us to so many new places and things. I know my Mother Anne and my late Father Jim would not object to me saying this, but Rose and I really had THREE Parents: A Mom, a Dad and A Father.
But as my Uncle, Father William Wright knew all too well; you can not have every thing you want. You have to sacrifice. You have to do unto others first, before you think for yourself. Selfishness is not a word you should strive towards; sacrifice is the road less traveled, and it is the more rewarding one.
I now know he wore those civies when we went out, for me. He would spend an hour after a mass or a wedding, talking to his people, not because he was “the Pastor” or for his vanities sake, but because he knew he could touch someone’s spirit, connect with them and maybe bring them back into the flock.
He sacrificed his time and energy for us. He LOVED all of us. As the prophets Paul & John wrote, “…and in The End, the LOVE you take is equal to the LOVE you make….”
One particular story of sacrifice that my Uncle often spoke of, which became his life motto, and the topic of many of his sermons, is the story of the Amish farmers devotion to GOD, FAMILY, WORK, and PLAY. Chances are most all of you here today are familiar with this phrase because my uncle shared it with you. He had first heard this phrase when visiting me at Catholic University back in the 1990’s. He wrote down the words at that time, and began to reflect on its meaning. He explained to me the importance of keeping God and faith as the top priority in life, followed by family, work, and then play.
Uncle Bill, known to most as Father Wright, lived this motto wholly and completely. He always placed his belief in God, faith, and his prayer life at the center of everything. His devotion to faith began as a child, when, at 8 years old, he had the epiphany that the priesthood was calling. Not too long after that, he began to attend daily Mass at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Southwest Philadelphia, and at 18 years old, he entered St. Charles Seminary where he spent ten years in study. He was ordained on May 22, 1965. For the last 43 ½ years, he never missed an opportunity to spread the message of God’s love through his words, deeds, and example.
Keeping with his motto, the next priority in his life was family. The beauty of my Uncle was that his kindness, his compassion, extended beyond our family to the larger community that he lived in and lead. Although we had a private view into his world, his public and personal personas were one in the same. The man, who was our Uncle, is the same man who was your pastor. He treated everyone he met like family, and indeed, St. Bernadette’s Church community was family to him as well.
Uncle Bill also was blessed by friends who were his chosen family. So many people called him friend; we wish to acknowledge a few today that we know well through him. We want to acknowledge Monsignor Richard Powers, Fr. James Donlon, and Fr. Alan Okon, who among other brother priests, have provided mentoring, friendship, and spiritual guidance. Thank you especially, to Fr. Dominic Tran, for his unwavering support to our Uncle, and to St. Bernadette’s Parish, and Deacon Frank Burke, in assisting the Church community, particularly during my uncle’s absence . We also want to remember, Helen Kraus, who was his right hand, his confidante for the last 20 years and his dear friend and sexton, Bill Casper. Finally, we want to thank Regina Rubbo, a caregiver and friend to our Uncle who especially aided him through his illness and struggle over the last 8 months.
The final two components of Uncle Bill’s motto – that of work and play, complete the fuller picture of the man he was. His work was directly in line with his faith and God, and so in many ways, the two were one. The final piece, that of play, speaks to the humorous and childlike part of our Uncle that made him so special and so unique.
Uncle Bill had many interests outside of his official priestly duties. He had a love of travel, as my brother mentioned earlier, and he had the privilege to visit many places around the globe. His love of travel took him 27 times to Ireland, numerous visits to Scotland, and California, where our relatives live, thus keeping the bonds of family alive. Evidence of this is here with us today, as eight of our family members are here from Ireland. Your presence here means so much to us.
From travel, another hobby, his love of photography, took hold. He was a gifted amateur photographer, and the walls of the rectory and the homes of his friends and family, are colored with the many photos he breathed life into.
Uncle Bill’s greatest talent, I believe, was that of humorist. He could tell a joke better than anyone, no offense Father Donlon. He looked forward to every March 17th so that he could dress up like an Irish leprechaun, or to Halloween when he could become a clown for the day. These kinds of actions brought great joy to the children at school, to his co-workers, parishioners, and friends. Uncle Bill loved to play, he lived to play, and exuded a wonderment that allowed the rest of us to feel less stressed, more joyful, and at ease in his presence.
Many of us here today are in grief, wishing that Father Wright, Uncle Bill, could be with us again, telling us a joke, or a simple story. Let us look back on all of the cherished memories as comfort, knowing that God had a larger plan for the little boy who survived polio, and we are the beneficiaries of this plan. Thank you Father Wright, thank you Uncle Bill for the memories and for your love…we will carry them with us forever.