Thursday, 8 January 2009

Monday, 28 July 2008

Richard’s First Anniversary.

Today is the first anniversary of Fr. Richard passing on to a new life - May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

My thanks go to Marianne (from Mulhouse) for reminding us of the powerful words that Richard often used at weddings, which took on a new meaning a year ago today.

Because you belong to Christ
You are akin to me
One in the bonds unbreakable
Wrought for eternity
Spirit with spirit joined
Who can the ties undo
Binding the Christ within my heart
Unto the Christ in you.

Where ever Richard landed he would be surrounded by an informal lay community. As Richard moved from apostolate to apostolate these lay communities overlapped and then spread throughout the world. It was one of Richard’s heartfelt wishes that there would one day be a formal Salvatorian lay community to share this sense of community, but formed in Salvatorian spiritually. We can be sure that Richard will be pleased to see that a Salvatorian lay community is now in formation in the capable hands of Father Alex McAllister SDS. You will be able to find out more from

My thanks to Stephen Evans for the visual memory below of one of Richard’s informal lay communities at the top of Tryfan (Snowdonia) in the late 70’s. Can you spot Richard?

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul

The Mass intention at our parish Mass this morning was to pray for vocations. On the altar was David a parishioner who has just completed his first year at the Diocese of Westminster seminary. He is about to go on a placement to a church named after the twin pillars of the church, St. Peter and St. Paul. Coincidentally, it is their feast that we celebrated today.

It was on this great liturgical feast day 47 years ago that Fr Richard RIP and others were ordained as Salvatorian Priests. In the year before and after Fr Richard completed his Priestly ministry, the Salvatorians have had to bid a fond farewell to many other of Fr. Richards contemporaries. The call to pray for vocations is a reminder of how lucky many of us were to fall under the mantle of the Salvatorians.

The photograph shown here is of Fr Richard in his first apostolate as a teacher, taken in the old laboratory at Christleton (Aug 1961). Many of the recipients of the lessons delivered by the Salvatorians would share the vocation to the Priesthood with three becoming Bishops. Our thanks for the photograph go to Trevor Green one the students at Christleton. Looks like they learnt more than the legendary dissection of frogs!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Book of Condolences

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When I see the modern manner by which he is addressed I feel I don’t know the man. He could sound like one on a wanted list. R.J. Sullivan aka Ritchie, Nicholas Owen, was nick[!] named Ould Nick by some of his students [with a few choice descriptions carved on some desks] and probably the ladies of Mary Ward also had some names for him . You remember him as a pastor, a good shepherd, an intellectual whereas he was always Ritchie to me, the fellow I met long ago in Liverpool . A mate whom I could talk to plainly and he to me.

I knew him as Ritchie and often called him Sullivan. In later years he claimed descent from Suleiman the Magnificent and often referred to himself as a little Turkish delight. He was aware that both names when translated meant “one eyed”. He took great delight in his surname, was an Everton supporter [brother Bernie was a Liverpool supporter] and the family had a dog called Paddy whose party piece was to sing for visitors.

I came to Liverpool aged 16 straight from the bogs in the Black North to work for my first and only employer in the Customs in Liverpool. We worked as clerks in Branch 6 in the Cunard building. The Chief Clerk was Tom Cronin from Cork whose claim to fame was the advice he gave to Beatty on the bridge at the Battle of Jutland. When Beatty said "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today," Tom advised "Steer two points nearer the enemy." Advice which Beatty gladly accepted and the result is history. But I digress.

I was soon told about the fellow who had a crucifix in the middle of his desk. I liked him at first sight. Even in those days he never had a real scouse accent not like his brother Bernie, and as the years passed the accent became more neutral. He was in the Catholic Evidence Guild and used to preach at the Pier Head on a Saturday evening. I was always admonished by him - not preaching , he was licensed to speak on some subjects. I went at times to listen to him with a threat that I would heckle, but never did.

We had one thing in common. Both our parents were postmen. His mother was an intensely religious person and I believe gave him as birthday presents a certificate for one brick for the Cathedral and Butler’s Lives of the Saint’s. Will he appear in a future edition?

One of my memories of him was the Twalfth [my dialect] in Liverpool. I was invited by him to see the procession. We met in Shaw Street. I had never seen such a procession in my life. Billy on his magnificent white charger and the fervent inebriated followers dancing up the footpad singing “ee eye ee eye o ee eye Paddy was a bast…” Then a hail of stones came down from the gardens; a charge was made up the slope which soon ground to a halt due of a long day spent drinking William’s health and kicking the Pope. At any rate the miscreants had vanished. As each band passed SFX the big drum was soundly beaten. Now here was I a bog trotter who had never witnessed anything like this before in my life. I have seen our twafth parade on television but the Liverpool one was more enthusiastic, brighter, more fervent, and more organised. I recall at that time the Lord mayor was called Longbottom of the Independent Orange Order. The centre of Liverpool was closed to traffic for most of July and August. Again I digress.

He came with me to a couple of dances at Bootle Town Hall and up at the Cathedral . Both were around St. Patrick’s Day: I never saw him dance.

At work at times he would discuss the priesthood and would ask what order we should join. Being bigoted I would always plump for the Irish Misson to China. He never cared for them . They were lucky for had I gone to China I might have joined the long march and prayed from my little Red Book. But the day arrived when he told me he was joining the Salvatorians. I had never heard of the order and joshed him about becoming a member of the Salvation Army. But it was plain that something had happened and he was earnest. I often wondered how he picked the Salvatorian and later in life thought it was because he was half German. Later I got an invitation to his ordination.

I could go on and on about him. His mother visited us in Ireland and he was a constant visitor until 1993. He conducted our wedding in 1965 and also my daughter’s in 1993. I never bought his book but believe he referred to my wedding in it. I don’t know what he wrote but the truth is Father Farry the P.P came to him for his fee. Ritchie advised me of what was happening. I approached my brother who had forgotton to bring the money and Ritchie ended up paying. As a reward we brought him with us on our honeymoon.

I’ll leave you his good friends with this blessing

May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

The rains fall soft upon your fields and,

Until we meet ,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Gordon McKeown

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Thanks to Fr Richard for providing sanctuary for me at times.

Thanks for his wonderful sense of humour and for sharing Gs and Ts with him.

In particular thanks for one confession which was difficult for me and probably for him too as he was not too well at the time.

Thank you for your generous giving of yourself.


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At the time when it was becoming more common for girls to become altar servers as well as boys, my four young daughters became servers at Keele Chapel in the early 90s.They were dubbed by Father Richard as "Serviettes."

As a family we remember many happy times among the varied congregation at Keele Chapel - with father Richard, of course, as its spiritual force. We loved him very much and will miss his humour and humanity. God Bless Richard!

Sue and Pete Holmes; Jessica; Isobel; Bryony and Cecilia.

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One of Richard's favourite poems was Francis Thompson's The Hound of Heaven and you can see why he identified so much with the poet because Richard spent his life living very much in this world but longing for the next. His whole life was a journey, as it is for all of us, and one where he constantly sought self-improvement and found himself wanting. He never censored anyone and yet he felt he was always just a whisker away from failure.

Richard was a very spiritual person though he did not think of himself at all as such. He often gave so much to others that he was exhausted and then would judge himself remiss if he took a short-cut in his prayers. He had great vision and clarity sometimes in his ability to cut through to the heart of a problem and find absolutely the right words to help, to console, to comfort and to uplift the spirits of those who needed to feel valued.

He was never the "simple little monk" he said he was and when people wonder what was his gift? What was it that made him so special? It is simply that he, like Francis Thomspon, spent his life searching for God, trying and often failing to be wholly virtuous, and his own very humble and often difficult beginnings enabled him to identify with the suffering and pain of all of us who crossed his path and walked with him for a while.

He never, ever, thought he was anything special. That was reserved exclusively for us.


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Richard was a remarkable man and an inspiration to all who had the pleasure meet him. He will be sadly missed but at the same time will always be with those of us who loved him.

Jan Lowe

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Richard always put others first and could always put people at ease. He lives on in our thoughts and prayers. His funeral though sad was a celebration of a wonderful fulfilled life. In our sadness, we hugged the person next to us for reassurance yet were able to smile at the thought of the Sullivan laughter and times past we all spent together.

Richard loved parties and bringing people together. We can all vouch that he was an excellent chef. Liam reminded me of the curries, which were remarkable because Richard did not particularly like chillis .

In time; perhaps the most fitting tribute to Richard's legacy is for us to gather together on the anniversary of his birth. (2 June)

As Anne White said that whilst we remember him, he remains with us.

Stephen Evans

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I have just been reading Richard's Blog and feel curiously at ease with the idea that he is gone, beacause he hasn't really gone whilst we remember him and can talk about him.

Ann White

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Richard taught me at Christleton Hall in the mid sixties. He was a very caring and gentle man. Last year,after forty years, I made contact with him and we spent a very peacful weekend at Chew Magna recalling our time together and stories of the people we knew.

May he rest in peace. (I was known as Anthony Fox by those who studied with me at Christleton.)

Danny Fox

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I thank God for having had the good fortune for knowing Richard for the last 30 yrs, but I wish it could have been longer. I thank God for Richard’s navigation on my own irregular journey in faith and I now have the hope that one day we can be reunited in glory.

The autobiography is a great comfort. Thank you Richard, that the book contained more "Blessing" than "Telling".

Your fellow (one-time) pipe-smoking buddy,

Liam Madden

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We have opened a book of condolences so that friends of Fr. Richard (RIP) can share their thoughts, observations, anecdotes, prayers.

I am sure Richard’s family in Liverpool and his world-wide Salvatorian family will be comforted by knowing that Richard guided so many of us on our journey of faith.

Please use the comment facility for this posting and I will intermittently transfer them to the book of condolences. If you prefer not to write anything but wish to contribute, then please just leave your name. If you forget to write your name then please contact me directly at and I will add it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Memorial service at Keele Chapel on Thursday 30 August at 7.00pm.

Just to let people know that I am arranging a memorial service for Richard at Keele Chapel on Thursday 30 August at 7.00pm. Fr Michael Miners will say Mass.

There will be refreshments at The Cottage following the service.

Please do pass on to anyone who might like to come.

Ray Bayliss
Catholic Lay Chaplain

Monday, 13 August 2007

Wealdstone parish Mass of Thanksgiving for Richard 7th Aug 2007

Richard’s funeral Mass at St. Joseph’s Wealdstone was very much a family occasion. His nieces and their families from Liverpool were there, still mourning the recent loss of their mum, Flo who was one of Richard’s sisters. His great-niece Kate read the first reading from Isaiah.

Members of Richard’s extended family from his chaplaincy and parish apostolates gathered together with local parishioners who remembered Richard from his days as Provincial based at Wealdstone.

We were made welcome by Fr. Peter Preston (Provincial) and Fr. Michael Doherty (Parish Priest) and by many of his religious family of Salvatorian brothers and sisters. Fr. Milton came from Rome to represent the Generalate and many others came from abroad and across the UK; Fathers Malachy McBride, Liam Talbot, Danny Burns, Lawrence Murphy, Noel Keane, Seamus O'Duill, Terry Cantwell, Desmond Cantwell, Bernard Finan, Thomas Hennessey, John Murray, John Vallomprayil, Henry Nevin, Bill Harrison and Giorgio Malecki. Fr Patrick Kearney and Fr. Floribert were able to attend Richard’s reception on Mon. evening.

Also concelebrating was Fr. Peter Murphy from Southwark Diocese who was a school boy in the Borough parish during Richard’s ministry there.

The importance of Richard’s life as a Salvatorian and priest was symbolised by the Salvatorian handbook being brought up in the offertory procession, together with his priestly Mass kit, which Chew Magna parish had given to him. As Fr. Peter emphasised in his homily the Salvatorian directive “ to serve people everywhere, by all the ways and means which the love of Christ inspires”, really did bear fruit in Richard’s life.

How moving it was at the final commendation to see his Salvatorian brothers carry Richard from the church, and then at the cemetery take him to his final resting place alongside other Salvatorians who have gone before him.

As Mike Whitty concluded in his eulogy at Wealdstone, “Richard was a Salvatorian priest and his brothers in Christ here, and in other communities around the world are also feeling his loss. Let us remember them in our own prayers, thanking God and ask Him to send them more priests to carry on their work of service and evangelisation as Richard has done”

Louise Madden.

Mass of Thanksgiving (Chew Magna) - Eulogy by Stephen McNulty

My Lord Bishop, Fr. Peter, Reverend Fathers, Reverend Sisters, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Father Richard’s dear and wonderful friend, Helen, tells me that Richard asked for me to deliver a Eulogy at his funeral. That is a bit odd really, because I always told Richard that I didn’t approve of eulogies. The main reason for my reluctance is that, at a funeral, whilst we might want to thank Almighty God for the blessing of a relative or a good and kind friend, the main focus should be to pray for the soul of the deceased, and to look back at someone’s life can seem to have more to do with this world than with the next.

But, as I thought about the challenge, I realised that, as we have not had an ordinary man in our midst, a eulogy may be appropriate. Richard used the experiences of his life as pointers to his spiritual message, much as Our Lord did through his parables, and so if a Eulogy is what he wanted, it must be the right thing to do. In any case, as anyone who ever dared to attempt to refuse him soon found out, it was always asking for trouble not to do as he asked. So a Eulogy is what he will have. We must not overlook Richard in our prayers, but because of the way he touched the lives of all he met, it must be right that praise and thanks to God for his life are very appropriate.

The theme of the uniqueness of this very special man will recur several times in this address.

Why did Richard single me out? Well, probably because he always had a healthy respect for his fellow-Liverpudlians. And my father, (who died last year,) went to the same Jesuit school as Richard, St. Francis Xavier’s, in Liverpool (or SFX as it is known,) and he felt a special bond with someone such as my father ,who had learnt well from the “good” Jesuits, but had been a fellow-sufferer at the hands of the “bad” ones.

Now, in a traditional eulogy, it is common to set out details of a person’s life for those who are not so familiar with it. But Richard’s wonderful autobiography, (called “Bless and Tell”,) which he finished while here at Chew Magna, has said so much about his life in his own unique way that there is little I can add: he has such good timing in telling stories against himself, and uses wit and pathos and humour, as well as showing flashes of true revelation which reveal a deep spirituality that is grounded in his love for Our Saviour. It is well beyond me to summarise or to improve upon it all.

In his life, Religious Order abounded: the Jesuits, for good or ill, were a cornerstone of his thought. From those early days of what he termed his failure at SFX, to the kathartic moment when he took what he calls a “Great Leap” off a boat in the South China Sea to visit the grave of St Francis Xavier himself, he had a reverence and a respect for the religious life that never left him

But Richard’s great talent was to be able to pile all his experiences one on top of the other to make him the uniquely sensitive, kind, caring, and spiritual man that he was. His amazing newsletters were just brimming with jokes, cartoons, life experiences and, often as not, good Catholic teaching. He was always very clear that the failures in his life had given him strength, and the ability to see humour in the bleakest of moments.

He always said he was no academic. I remember when I told him that I was reading a book of Cardinal Newman’s sermons about Our Lady, he said he would prefer a Crime Thriller anyday! But I think his BSc in Biology, his M.Ed, and especially the Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy awarded to him by the Open University show that, as always, his low opinion of his own abilities was not shared by others, even in the academic world. But in all of this he was being genuinely humble. What he saw as his own failures made him ever ready to listen to others with their problems, and to offer just the right level of comfort and advice. He had an especial fondness for the young, and his years at Christleton and then at Mary Ward College, where he met his lifelong friend Helen, and on to the University of Aston, Birmingham Polytechnic and then Keele University, gave him a unique insight into the problems of young people and their anxieties and needs

I often felt that Richard’s favourite part of the Mass was when he gathered the little ones around the altar to say the Our Father.

He never censured anyone; he always listened, and always forgave. In fact, he was very Christlike in all he did. He had that great gift of making everyone he came into contact with, young or old, feel special, loved and wanted.

As in all his experiences of life, his heart bypass made a deep and lasting impact on him, and he remained very grateful to God for the gift of extra years after he had seemed to die on the operating table. Amazingly, after that , he went on to be elected as the Provincial of the Salvatorians, a post that he filled for two terms.

It is typical of the man that he retained his humility despite having held a position of some eminence; a Provincial has the rank of bishop, but Richard emerged with his characteristic good humour intact, although I strongly suspect he could be firm and purposeful when the occasion demanded it.

And then he came to Chew Magna. Despite Fr. Peter’s kind words about our little world here, from all Richard has said and written, the experience of coming to what seemed a rural backwater with precious few students, no bohemian parties where he could serve up his stews of leftovers, and a parish boundary that looked more like a small diocese, was a shock to him.

The message was that he had come to retire here. Or so we thought!!

But Richard was always brimming with ideas. I cannot think of a time when he was not working on a grand plan of some sort. Even in his last days he was working on a book of spiritual exercises, which seems to hark back to the Jesuits again, although this work was to be subtitled a book of “Prayerobics”, so I’m not sure how close to St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises he intended it to be.

In his eight years at Chew Magna he did so much, that it’s difficult to do justice to all he achieved. A number of things come to mind, though:

Firstly the two great parish parties at which the Sacred Liturgy was a powerful and solemn centrepiece; the first one was to celebrate his 75th birthday; and the second was held to celebrate the bicentenary of the parish.

Then there were his cheese and wine parties, which in the last year he promoted on local radio as having the express aim of welcoming lapsed Catholics, and perhaps others, to the Church; And we should not forget his wonderful parish manual, which is a masterpiece of organisation and efficiency. In it we see evidence of the extraordinary and inclusive way Richard involved almost everyone in the parish in his various ministries; a true example and beacon to other parishes. He was a man thoroughly imbued with the true spirit of the Second Vatican Council; he condemned excesses, but gloried in its achievements.

Richard did not want to die. He felt that he had so much more he had to contribute to the Church and to whatever community he was asked to serve. He gave of himself in a way which would have been impressive in a man half his age. But to run the parish the way he did right up till the operation he had in June was truly remarkable. There are thousands of people whose lives will never be the same after having had the privilege to meet and to know Richard.

His internet address book is longer than that of most popular students. But Richard’s closest friends, Mike and Helen Whitty, are people to whom our parish owes a special debt of gratitude. Richard’s own siblings are either dead or very elderly, and Helen and Mike have been his adoptive family for years. They have sustained and supported him throughout his time at Chew Magna, and without them he could not have achieved all that he has.

He talks in his book about the “Long Jump” off a boat in the South China Sea, when he had to put his faith and trust in one of the guides to catch him. Well he has made his last “Long Jump” out of this life into the arms of our Divine Saviour, who will, I have no doubt, be there to catch him. He had a very real sense of Our Lord in his life, as his book makes clear. In his own words, he tells of a revelation of Christ “as a person with whom I could have a personal relationship”, and this was followed soon after by a wonderful glimpse of eternal bliss at St. Mary’s, Highfield Street, when “I happened to look down at the altar and suddenly the world stood still. It was though a curtain, like on a stage, suddenly flashed open and I was encased in light.”

Well, unlike in his vision of 1951, the curtains will not now clash to, and he will soon be standing face to face with Our Blessed Lord.

In the meantime, we must not omit Richard in our prayers, that God will pardon his sins and give him the reward he so richly deserves. Today is, though, also one where we should thank Our Lord for the great gift of this uniquely talented, kind and loyal priest and friend.

The world is poorer without him

May he Rest in Peace.