Father Rich Creason died last night. And while we can truly comfort ourselves with other phrases (He went to see Jesus … on to Glory … to live with the Saints…), I’m feeling the finality and loss of death. He might not really be happy with me for saying that, but it’s still true. His Irish heritage and deep Catholic faith would expect us to celebrate – and we will. For now, I’d like to grieve the one we have lost.
Over 25 years ago, Rich Creason was among a group of clergy who recognized the need for congregations to express their faith more concretely in their own neighborhoods. He knew some good organizing was already happening in neighborhoods around the region. He just wanted congregations to be able to connect their faith with action that impacted the well-being of their surroundings. So he introduced St. Louis and the Gamaliel Network to each other. The result, ultimately, was Metropolitan Congregations United.
Fr. Rich helped birth MCU. Then, he kept building, creating and leadings us – from the center, from the sideline, from the front. He served as the MCU President. He led as a pastor. He showed up to challenge officials when they let down their constituents.
One of my favorite Rich-Creason-power-stories was his ability to agitate other congregations about their turnout for events. His parish didn’t have the most people among our members, but they showed up with very high percentages. When we made turnout declarations, he’d often go first. He’d put up a number like 30 or 40 or 50 people. It sounded good, but not impressive. Then, he’d declare what percentage of the Sunday Mass that represented, and he’d say, “Now, can you match our percentage?” It was beautiful, hopeful, challenging. He embodied, “the last shall be first.”
Fr. Rich lived that theological truth. In these days of crisis, he would always remember the front-line workers. He’d be grateful for doctors, nurses and other specialists. And he’d be constantly careful to celebrate those who were caring directly for patients like him – the techs, CNA’s, and housekeeping staff who may be taking the most risks to keep the most as safe and healthy as possible.
OK, enough from me about who we have lost. Time to celebrate Fr. Rich’s hope. Lisa, my spouse, works at the Butterfly House and sent this picture to me today. May Fr. Rich’s spirit soar eternally. May it soar anew in us. May it soar even beyond our imagination.
Peace and Blessings,
Rev. David Gerth, executive director
(and former greenhorn lay person learning to organize from Rich Creason)
Remembering Fr. Rich….
There was no stronger advocate in the St Louis Catholic Community for working men and women than Rich. Since taking this job I’ve leaned heavily on him to guide me through the waters of the religious community and how labor fits there.…Pat White, president, St. Louis Labor Council
Rich was the one who introduced me to faith-based community organizing, which has definitely changed my life and the life of so many people. He was a priest, friend, advocate, mentor and lover of all God’s people.…Sr. Gail Guelker, SSND
I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Fr. Rich. What a great mentor, friend and priest.…Donna Lyndsay, parishioner; Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Fr. Creason was a blessing to me and to Gamaliel. He supported me as the first immigrant executive director. He always invested in the world of Gamaliel. We’re going to miss his faithful spirit.…Ana Garcia Ashley, executive director; Gamaliel Network
I was in a priest support group with Rich. Through all of his health struggles, he stayed so positive. We all said that we couldn’t take what he went through as well as he did. He had to shelter-in-place long before the rest of us even knew what that was. He went through all of this, including his own isolation, always prayerfully. That’s his legacy to me – live all of our lives prayerfully.…Msgr. Jack Schuler, priest; St. Cronan Catholic Church