As promised, I wish to share the homily for Monsignor John Scully which I gave this morning at his funeral Mass at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Spring Hill. It has been something of a labor of love and has required more restraint than I usually exercise because there are so many stories about this near legendary figure that time does not allow to be told. I share herein but two. The tributes and testimonies found below are often far more personal and eloquent and thanks to all who wanted me to know how much they admired and loved him.
Monsignor John Scully at the Chrism Mass in 2006 -Photo courtesy of Ed Foster, Jr.
Lamentations 3:17-26 , Revelation 14:13 , Matthew 11:25-30 
Much has been written and spoken since last Friday morning when the Lord called to Himself, John Francis Scully, a priest of God for sixty-two years. We have marveled at the moment of his transition from this life to the next, at the length of both his years and his ministry, and recalled with love his interaction with many of us here present this morning.
Morning after morning, Monsignor Scully waited in silence for the Lord to come for him. Mirroring Lamentations, with patience and hope he awaited the coming of his Savior, first in the Eucharist he offered each day of his life and only in the end in death, which he never feared. He knew that God’s favors were never exhausted and His mercies were never totally spent. So in hope, like the energizer bunny, he kept on ticking – hearing confessions, praying his office, begging for the opportunity to begin yet another parish even at the age of 78, desirous of knocking on doors of homes in search of converts. The Lord was good to Monsignor who waited in hope and sought in faith the moment, which came suddenly at Mass last Friday.
How can even the most callous observer deny that this priest, in the words of Revelation, did anything other than “die in the Lord.”? In May, I went to visit him at Brandon Regional Hospital and he was in a wheelchair, hospital gown with a stole around his shoulders, MAGNIFICAT resting on the table before him, offering his daily Mass. It was a labor that day for Monsignor to pray. Now, again recalling the words of the second reading, he has found rest from his labors and his works have accompanied him.
Sixty-two years, Monsignor Scully accepted the Lord’s invitation in the Gospel to take upon his shoulders the yoke of ordained priesthood. I doubt if at any time in those sixty-two years he felt over burdened. Rather I know he found the priesthood to be exciting, fulfilling, challenging, if at times demanding. It was a different Church in 1948 for which he was ordained in many ways and he might easily have complained about the ground rules having changed. Many of the changes of the Second Vatican Council must have caused him some pain but complain – never. His celebration of the Mass maintained many of the gestures and movements which signaled reverence for the Godhead right up to his death.
In my fourteen years here as bishop, I had only two complaints against Monsignor Scully. The first was occasioned by Monsignor driving and coming upon a serious accident on US 19. He pulled over, opened his glove compartment, took the Oil of the Sick and his Purple Stole out, pushed aside the EMT’s to their chagrin and anointed the woman on the ground before him. The EMT’s complained to the sheriff and so did the woman – she was not Catholic and likely worried more about receiving a Catholic sacrament than her broken bones. Monsignor and I talked through the incident and he promised that he would at least ask if they were Catholic in the future.
Pleased that the hurdle was over, a little before his retirement I got a second letter from the Sheriff saying that someone had died in their home, the police had secured the scene and were waiting for the arrival of the medical examiner. Three hours after the death and before the medical examiner could arrive, Monsignor Scully burst on the scene, pulls down the yellow tape, turns the body over and anoints. The Sheriff said that if I did not do something, one more incident and I would be visiting Monsignor in the Hernando county jail. Monsignor sheepishly came to my office where together we read the Catechism for the Church and its teaching on the Sacrament of the Sick and I said, “John, it is no longer Extreme Unction – it is a sacrament for the living.” He looked at me in a way that you would have thought I shot his brother.
I tell you those two stories because they will forever be endearing memories for me of this incredibly zealous and dedicated priest. Three years after he retired from here at St. Theresa’s and again at age eighty, he asked me if he could begin a new parish in Trinity in Pasco County. He was so afraid that I might ban him to a nursing home, that he made everyone swear not to inform me when he was indeed in a nursing home in Framingham, Massachusetts, run by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm. Why did he not want me to know – he simply strongly felt that he was not done with his ministry yet and that God was not done with him? “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
He got his reprieve from his worst fears because one of our young pastors offered him a place to live, to say Mass and hear confessions, to feel useful and employed. Allow me to be the first to say that all in this Church and in this diocese who knew and loved Monsignor Scully thank you, Father Bill Swengros, and the staff and people of St. Stephens parish for giving him a dignified, priestly conclusion to an incredible life.
Because he spent his vacation days not at leisure but in his beloved Africa, he probably has baptized, absolved, confirmed and married more Catholics in his life than most of us combined. From his days as a child his mother taught her son to look beyond Dorchester, Boston, and the United States and to the mission lands of the world; the propagation or spread of the faith was his secondary vocation. And because of him, our medium size diocese was for years thirteenth among all the dioceses in this vast country in its support for the missions. So far Monsignor Scully is the one and only recipient of the Founder’s Award, the highest recognition given by the Society of St. Peter the Apostle, the pontifical mission society supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Developing World. About our great priest, Monsignor John Kozar, the National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States wrote to me: “Since my childhood missionaries have always been my heroes. Through my association with Monsignor Scully in “this one family of mission,” I added another “hero” to my list almost immediately after my first meeting. May he rest in peace.”
Monsignor John Kozar, national director, Pontifical Mission Societies, with Monsignor Scully, recipient of the Founder's Award for the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and Monsignor Jose A. Galvez, then international Secretary General, Society of St. Peter Apostle, Rome, Italy -Photo courtesy of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States
Now he is making his last journey, not over seas, but from death to life, new life and the rest he never treasured or sought in this life. To call him indefatigable is not enough. To call him tireless cheapens the word. But to call him “father” is the greatest gift one can say about him and the one of which he was the most proud.
Father in heaven; take our Father Scully to yourself. But keep an eye on him in case he thinks heaven also needs some work. You will have your hands full, Father in heaven, but here on earth he gave you his hands, raised in blessing, anointing, forgiving, initiating, transforming mere bread and wine into the life-giving Body and Blood of your Son. Be for him Lord, all that he hoped for, for his future indeed is not lost but paradise gained.
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