Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
Photography: LINDA REEVES | FC
POMPANO BEACH | Father Michael Garcia stood at the altar May 19 as Mass and a joyful parish anniversary celebration were about to begin, but he was not smiling as he delivered his message.
“I have some bad news,” said Father Garcia, parochial administrator of St. Coleman Parish. He paused, bowed his head and took a deep breath before continuing.
“Father Foudy passed away at 3 a.m. this morning. I recently spoke to him. He apologized. He couldn’t make it to the anniversary celebration because of chemo treatments. I don’t know if this is divine providence or what, that he passed on the same day of the anniversary.”
No doubt about it. Father Foudy, former St. Coleman pastor, was front and center during the parish celebration that marked six decades of ministry and growth of the parish and school, in which the beloved Irish priest played a big part.
“He was the definition of a wonderful pastor,” Father Garcia said.
The afternoon included fellowship, food and entertainment and featured bits and pieces about the parish history since its establishment May 7, 1959.
But the highlight of the gathering was Father Foudy stories shared by those who respected and loved him, along with Irish music, photos and memorabilia of Father Foudy, including some items found unexpectedly days before the celebration and his death. The testimonies spoken from the heart pointed to the great impact the shepherd made on his sheep.
“The first time I came to the parish was in 1979,” said Joe Testa. “My first visit that day was special. I loved the people. I loved the priest. I was married at St. Coleman. My wife converted to the Catholic faith here. My four children received the sacraments here. We have been very blessed with all the priests and by Father Foudy.”
As a tribute to Father Foudy, Testa quoted some lyrics from the Broadway musical Wicked: “Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
Father Foudy, 77, a priest for over 50 years, served St. Coleman from 1989 to 2015, following in the footsteps of two other wonderful shepherds. Father Michael J. Fogarty, founding pastor, built a parish complex with the first simple church, convent, parish hall and school. Upon his retirement in 1974, Msgr. Dominic Barry became pastor. Msgr. Barry ushered St. Coleman through a period of tremendous growth and change. He built a new rectory and the present-day church with towering steeple that was dedicated in May 1986.
Upon the death of Msgr. Barry in 1989, Father Foudy became the third pastor as the St. Coleman family continued to grow. During his tenure, he substantially increased the capacity of St. Coleman School by converting the original rectory and convent buildings into classroom space, adding an outdoor gymnasium and installing state-of-the-art technology. As a permanent tribute to Father Foudy’s commitment to Catholic education at St. Coleman School, the parish hall was named in his honor prior to his retirement in 2015.
‘HE WAS A LEGEND’
“I came here because of Father Foudy,” said Kathy Diebold, president of the St. Coleman Women’s Council, a very active club dedicated to helping the parish. “He was friendly, welcoming. I loved him. There would be kids screaming in the church. He would stop and say, ‘That’s our future.’ It was great. He was a legend.”
Richard Porraro came to St. Coleman 55 years ago. He helped launch the annual parish Italian festival in 1984, the main fundraiser for the parish and school. He said he greatly admired Father Foudy and fondly recalled the great Italian-Irish bond the two men had.
“He helped me bury my wife when she died,” said Porraro. “He was there when I married my second wife. He was a big part of my life. He was committed to living life as a priest.”
Father Garcia, 30, was appointed administrator of St. Coleman upon the departure of Father Henryk Pawelec, who succeeded Father Foudy. Father Pawelec resigned in August 2018 after an archdiocesan investigation determined he had misappropriated parish funds. Obviously, the parish family was shaken and many parishioners left deeply disturbed.
Sandy Barry is one of those faithful, who stayed with forward-looking hope. The parish is starting to grow again, and Father Garcia is picking up where Father Foudy left off, adding new ministries and initiatives.
“He came in and he has been a true shepherd,” she said. “He has gone out of his way to reach out to everyone, making them feel welcome. People are coming back. Today is a homecoming, and it is the day that Father Foudy passed away. He was a big part in this parish.”
She shared that she and Father Foudy were both going through chemo. “He would say, we will get through this,” she said.
She called this “a new chapter” in St. Coleman’s 60-year history, adding, “We have a new sense of life in the parish. It is so good.”
A vigil for Father Foudy is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., followed by a Mass Thursday, May 23, at 11 a.m., both at St. Coleman. The church is located at 1200 South Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.
Born Sept. 19, 1941, in Inagh, County Clare, Ireland, the youngest of 14 children, Father Foudy was ordained June 10, 1967, in Thurles, Ireland. He came to South Florida that same year and served as parochial vicar at St. Timothy, Miami (1967-69); St. Margaret, Clewiston (1969-70); and St. Anthony, Fort Lauderdale (1970-71). He studied in Rome from 1971 to 1974 and upon returning joined the faculty at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, teaching dogmatic theology. He was named pastor of St. Coleman in 1989 and remained there until his retirement from fulltime ministry in June 2015.
This article has been corrected to note that Father Foudy taught dogmatic, not moral, theology at the major seminary.