FATHER Regis Scanlon, R.I.P

In Memory of Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFM Capby charliej373Fr. Regis Scanlon with St. Mother Teresa and FriendsMy dear friend, Fr. Regis Scanlon passed on last Saturday. He was one of my earliest friends in Denver. When I first got here, he was the regular Priest for Tuesday morning Mass at the Cabrini Shrine in Golden. He was solidly orthodox, with a lively wit, and a commitment to the sort of projects I love. After Mass, we would have breakfast with others in the cafeteria downstairs – and we just hit it off marvelously. In fact, he introduced me to my dear friend, Desmond Birch, the eschatologist. The three of us often went to lunch together.From the time I first met him, Fr. Regis was focused on what he believed was his last mission on earth, getting the Julia Greeley Home for single, homeless women set up to spark new hope and get these women out of the hands of predators. We spoke often of the project and I offered a small bit of counsel. Over the course of this, we became great friends. I’m not sure exactly how it came to be, but as I became more prominent in Catholic Circles, everyone in the Denver establishment knew that he and I were close. Known as a very solid, no-nonsense type of Priest and man, Fr. Regis told me at one point he was getting asked five or six times a day about me. With a hearty laugh he told me that he told them all the same thing: “I don’t know about his prophecies, but he’s NOT nuts!” Not given to mysticism, it made for some interesting conversations. I have found that more than a few serious intellectual Christians avoid mysticism altogether, but when they feel they are not being recruited into nonsense and can really challenge it without causing hurt feelings, they enter into the subject with relish. So it was with Fr. Regis and me. It turned out he was deeply devoted to and engaged with Our Lady of Fatima – and we spoke often of it in very deep terms. While much of our perspectives differed, it was not an argument, more of an exploration, seeking what was true, testing the boundaries, while staying faithful to the fundamentals of the faith. Three years ago, Father wrote a lengthy piece on it for Homiletic and Pastoral Review. While you can see it has a significantly different perspective than much of my own, Fr. Regis was quite candid in noting that our discussions played a significant role in its development – and I was very pleased to see the perspective developed in a way that did not do violence to the integrity of St. John Paul, Cdl. Ratzinger – the future Pope Benedict, or to Sr. Lucia. One of the great delights of our friendship was being able to explore significantly different perspectives, while staying grounded in the faith and charity, in order to refine our own thought. In a time when too many empty-headed vessels angrily proclaim their own supremacy of knowledge, it is as comforting as a cool breeze on a hot summer day to speak in depth with a genuinely knowledgeable and serious man who has the humility to know he does not grasp the fullness of it all but deeply wants to get it right, rather than just maintain what he says is is right. It is easy to be vulnerable and questioning with a serious man who does the same – and it brings you ever closer to the throne room of God.I was going to just repeat an article I wrote about Fr. Regis’ life six years ago – and I will put that at the end of this. But the Julia Greeley Home did a marvelous obituary and I want to highlight that. Have no fear about the Julia Greeley Home – several years ago Fr. Regis told me he was going to get Mary Callan, who he described as a brilliantly talented woman, to come in and take over as executive director – and that when that was accomplished he could rest assured that the project would fully take. At the time, he had no agreement with her – just the determination that by hook or by crook he was going to get her. Last year he did. Getting to know her, she is everything he said she was – and it delights me that she does some very heavy volunteer work for CORAC. Fr. Regis was one of those wonderful people I could speak deeply with. He challenged some of my assumptions as I did some of his, and we absolutely delighted in discovering new insights into the faith together because of that candidness. He made me a better man because of our honest discourse and deep friendship – and now I have good hope to call upon him as an intercessor from a mighty place (though one of his pet peeves was people automatically canonizing their loved ones who had passed on.) He once warned me that I had better not canonize him after he died before doing my best to help deliver him from purgatory. So I try to do both, praying for the repose of his soul and confidently expecting his intercession in the fullness of God’s time.Here, then, is the lovely obituary from Julia Greeley Home:“Father Regis Scanlon, OFMCap.February 17, 1943 – November 6, 2021   Father Regis Scanlon, OFM Cap., Founder and President of the Julia Greeley Home, passed into eternal life on Saturday, Nov. 6. He entered the hospital on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and although he returned to the friary, his health never fully recovered. But the irrepressible Father Regis, 78, had been down that road before. Last May, he made a video explaining how St Joseph has been helping him prepare for a happy death at least since 2010 when he faced another life threatening illness. In the video, he recalled how a kindly home-hospice nurse called to say she was en-route to the friary to help him make his end-of-life decisions. But Father Regis had other plans. Sorry, he said, but he couldn’t meet her that day: “I’m at IHOP!” Father Regis,jaunty and confidentAs it turned out, the decade to come would bring many more pancake mornings, pizza runs and friendships. In his 49 years as a Capuchin priest, Father Regis was, by turns, a teacher, writer, and youth leader (here he is, late 1980s, with some of his students). He championed the homeless and poor; to an order of nuns, he was spiritual director, and to hundreds of families and lay people, he was their favorite priest.  His crowning achievement was the Julia Greeley Home, which he founded after the earlier brush with death in 2010. Following his recovery, at age 70, convinced that God still had work for him to do, Father Regis threw his energy into founding a haven for women who are alone and homeless. Inspired by a lifelong devotion to the Blessed Mother, Father Regis was appalled that the God-given dignity of any woman was threatened by the cruel conditions of street life. Homeless organizations offered few places for the woman alone. He was haunted by the cry of a woman trying to exist after losing home and family: “But Father, I have nowhere to go!”  Father Regis opened his first home in 2013 and chose as patron Julia Greeley, a former slave who was beloved a century ago as Denver’s “Angel of Charity.” Today, she is still fully present as a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church. Father Regis always looked to the future. A few days before he died, a friend, hoping to encourage him, said, “The Julia Greeley Home needs you!” Not missing a beat, Father Regis replied, “It will continue, with me or without me.” In fact, a year before his death, Father Regis coaxed Dr. Mary E. Callan, PhD, to join his mission as executive director. He valued Mary’s experience as a nonprofit executive, but even more that she was a longtime advisor to Julia’s, and has a great love for Julia’s mission. He drew great support for Julia’s from all walks of life He was always looking to the future. Here he welcomed Mary Callan’s arrival on Oct. 15, 2020. “I only knew Father for about a decade, but once I met him, he was always ‘present’ even when he wasn’t with you,” Mary recalled shortly after his death. “Now that he’s passed to the other side of the veil, I can just picture him smiling and clasping his hands together, relishing the joy of beginning his finest work yet: interceding for all of us, and for the Julia Greeley Home!”  Julia Greeley wasn’t Father’s only encounter with a future saint. As a young priest, he met Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In the 1990s she asked him to give a series of spiritual talks to her nuns overseas. While Father Regis was hard to intimidate (he happily claimed the title “bull in a china shop”), he softened his approach with Mother Teresa. A few years ago he wrote about the lunch-time meetings where she outlined her project. But at the end of lunch, Father Regis just wanted to slip away.  “In those days I use to smoke a pipe, but I didn’t want the sisters to know that,” he wrote. “So, at the end of the lunch I told Mother Teresa that I was going outside to stretch my legs. She would nod in agreement. Then, I would go behind the building and puff away. One day it was raining and I said, as usual, ‘I am going out to stretch my legs’ and Mother replied: ‘Father, you can smoke your pipe here today.'” Mother Teresa not only forgave his smoking habit, she enlisted Father Regis as a spiritual director for her Missionaries of Charity. He also worked with Mother Teresa’s sisters in their ministry to AIDS patients in Denver. In addition, Father Regis was the official confessor of the Carmelite nuns in Littleton and the Benedictine nuns in Boulder.In another brush with celebrity, Father Regis developed a teaching series on the Catholic faith for Mother Angelica’s EWTN. For years, people would greet him in restaurants and elsewhere, “I watch you on EWTN!” His buoyant spirit made him a natural on TV. Yet when called upon in 1999, he gave up his TV series and embraced a humbler mission as director of Catholic Prison Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver. With his signature enthusiasm, he marshaled help from 70 volunteers and more than a half dozen priests and deacons, to serve 850 prisoners every week in 17 prisons and jails in Colorado. He was never happier than when he was bringing Confession and the Eucharist to men and women living within the grim walls of a prison cell.For much of his life as a priest, Father Regis continued his major avocation as a writer. His goal was to use scholarly documentation to advance the truth by addressing all the major controversies facing Catholicism today. His articles have appeared in major publications including Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Crisis magazine, and New Oxford Review. In recent years he dived full-bore into the blogosphere, at http://frregisscanlon.com/.But if anyone tried to categorize Father Regis as “liberal” or “conservative,” they were confounded. The goal, he always insisted, was to teach the faith. His mission field eventually included hundreds of young people who grew up in the spiritual wilderness of the ’60s and ’70s. Making the faith come alive to young people -that energized him. In the process, Father Regis made lifelong friendships, inspired vocations, and launched happy marriages. “You always got the truth from him, and that’s why college-age people liked him,” says longtime family friend Rosina Kovar. In 1990, Rosina invited Father Regis to her home to give talks to confused Catholics on the puzzling messages flowing after Vatican II. “The crowd got so large that by the next year they had to move it to the Auraria (college) campus!” Although associated with conservative thought, Father Regis always insisted, “Don’t be conservative and don’t be liberal, be Catholic,” says Bob Gallegos, one of those young people turned lifelong friend. Bob recalls how Father Regis enjoyed setting audiences straight – while getting laughs – by insisting that, yes, Vatican II represented solid, authentic, Catholic teaching. “Father would say, “if your pastor approaches you wearing a coat and tie, with a girl on each arm, and he tells you, ‘Vatican II says this is OK,’ don’t believe it!”The Auraria Catholics club, as it was known, quickly morphed into a veritable grassroots movement of committed young Christians. What was the pull of Father Regis? “He taught me how to be a Catholic,” is the instant reply of Anne Sanfilippo Yanez. When the group exploded into the hundreds, Anne became Father Regis’s secretary, organizing activities and managing meetings and retreats (shown here, the crowd at a Father Regis-led retreat at Cabrini Shrine in the 1990s). “All the kids used to hang out at the office. Father was teaching classes two nights a week and the room was packed with students and adults.”  In 2015, Richard Milinazzo, a businessman and Julia advisor, shows software materials to Father Regis … … in June 2021, Richard was ordained a deacon, and he credits Father Regis for enkindling his faith Encountering Father Regis: Richard Milinazzo still remembers the dinner invitation of many years ago that he wanted to avoid. “I was getting to know more about my faith, and Bob Gallegos said he was meeting a friend for dinner on Friday and would I like to come? Great! After we set it up, I asked Bob who his friend was, and he said, “Father Regis Scanlon.”A priest! I was intimidated by priests. I didn’t think they were approachable. No way I was going to meet him! But it was too late. On Friday I sat in the restaurant parking lot, terrified…Finally I went in. We met, and the waitress came to take the order. I said, “I’ll have a steak.””What?!” I felt Father staring at me with those bullet eyes. “It’s Friday, and you’re gonna eat steak?””I thought Vatican II did away with that,” I said.”All this is happening within five minutes of meeting him. He starts shaking this pistol finger at me and says, ‘Listen buddy, if you’re gonna hang out with us you can’t eat meat on Friday!'””I’ll have a salad,” I said.Father Matchmaker: Father Regis had an uncanny sense of who belonged with whom, and he’s credited with launching a dozen or more marriages from the Auraria Catholics club. One of those couples was Eric and Kathy Lederhos: “For some time he kept telling me about this wonderful lady named Kathy,” Eric Lederhos recalled recently. “Father gave each of us each other’s phone numbers, but it took over a year for one of us to call the other…” Meanwhile, Kathy had gone on a retreat, and she told Father Regis that, maybe, she was called to be a nun? At that, says Eric, “Father Regis laughed out loud — ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!'” Father knew better. Here is Father Regis with Kathy and Eric on their wedding day, September 17, 1994.From love matches, to marriages, to families – Father Regis ended up with generations of fans. One of them was Michael Lederhos, son of Kathy and Eric. Michael (now grown up), was given the middle name “Regis” in honor of the family’s beloved priest. By age four, the precocious youngster was proudly introducing himself to guests: “Hello, my name is Michael Father Regis Lederhos!”   Happy New Year! Nick Gallegos had been pondering the priesthood, and then he met a young woman named Doris Soileau. On a retreat led by Father Regis, the answer to Nick’s vocation was becoming clear. Soon, his next question was, “Father Regis, when can you marry us?” “Father was always practical, never emotional,” says Doris. “He told us he was probably going to be shipped to Nebraska or Kansas, so we had to decide quick if we wanted him to marry us.” The date (why not?!): New Year’s Eve, 1994. Nick and Doris became two of Father’s closest collaborators, working closely with him in prison ministry, and joining him in many projects to the end. They also knew all Father Regis’s quirks, like his legendary dislike of hugging and all displays of affection. But on one of the last days of his life, Doris outsmarted him. At hospice, as she was saying good-bye, she whispered, “You can’t stop me now,” and planted a kiss on his forehead. Nick and Dorison their wedding day,December 31, 1994 “Father Regis liked this photo because he wanted to showhe was bringing the lambs and sheep back into the fold.”

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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