DEATH OF A LEGEND
I have just received word that Monsignor John Scully, a priest for sixty-two years of this diocese (and St. Augustine for twenty years prior to our formation) died this morning while concelebrating the morning Mass at St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico. The exact moment of his death occurred during the Institution prayers of the Mass or the “consecration” of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus. It was precisely how he wished to go and would have scripted it had we any power over the time of our death. Monsignor Scully did so many things during his sixty-two years of priesthood, started parishes (St. Catherine’s, Largo and St. Michael’s, Clearwater (both named after his own mother and father) to name but two, schools and institutions.
Since he has designated me as the Principal Celebrant and Homilist at his funeral Mass at St. Theresa’s in Spring Hill, the last parish he was to pastor, I need time to think of this man’s accomplishments and place them in the context of the priestly life which he lived. I will see that a text of the homily I deliver at his funeral is placed here and the Diocese will give you much more biographical information later today. They are busy about attending to his wishes for his death. He will be buried in his beloved Boston where he was born and raised, next to his parents sometime later next week, most likely. The news came quickly and somewhat unexpectedly this morning so we are busy about many things in light of his death.
I tried often and unsuccessfully to get Monsignor to agree to an assisted living facility in his last few years of life and he successfully withstood me. He found security, comfort and continued meaning for his priestly life due to the extraordinary kindness of Father Bill Swengros, pastor of St. Stephen’s parish in Valrico and his staff and parishioners. Repeatedly Monsignor on his numerous overnights at the hospital would tell me how grateful he was to Father Bill and to St. Stephens for taking him in and treating him with love and respect. So am I.
There is so much good and something amusing which can be said about this almost “legendary” priest of our diocese and Monsignor, probably somewhat reluctantly and ruefully, has given me the opportunity in preaching the homily at his funeral Mass sometime next week. Suffice it to say for the moment, one had to have a stone heart not to appreciate his zeal, energy, and desire for souls. As our Diocesan Director for the Propagation of the Faith for many years, Monsignor Scully’s ministry took him to remote parts of the globe, baptizing and confirming, absolving and marrying. He gave his ministry not just to the people of the parishes to which he was assigned but to the world as well. As I digest the news, it is almost like a giant oak has fallen and a huge space has been revealed – one that will not be easy to fill, even though he has been retired for about ten years. When I would suggest to him that he had done enough, he would look at me as if I didn’t get it and tell me in effect, “heaven can wait.” It did until this morning and, John, rest there now in the peace you earned, reunited with your beloved mother, Catherine, and father, Michael and other members of your family. We are all a little better for knowing you.