A EULOGY FOR MIKE MCFADDEN BY JIM BELZER
I loved Mike McFadden. I loved him because he knew hat was important in life – friendship, laughter, and commitment to God and neighbor. I loved Mike because he loved me. Whenever he introduced me to a new friend he would always add. “We’ve been friends for 55 years.” Part of me dies with Mike. I’m going to miss him. A lot!
We first met when Mike came to the Columban Seminary at Silver Creek in 1948. We spent the next 8 years together. Being born a month apart, we were next to each other in seniority. For those who were never in the seminary that means we sat next to each other in chapel, next to each other in class, next to each other in the dinning room. We couldn’t turn around without bumping into each other.
In spite of all this togetherness, we became friends. During vacations we visited each other’s families. I got to meet his big brother Jack he was so proud of; his little sister Bonnie whom he adored; his wonderful mother and father.
We shared some good times and some bad. I remember the stunned disbelief when Mike called to tell me his father had died suddenly. And Mike was the first I told when Doc Stokes informed me that the rector’s council had voted I not be ordained because I questioned too much. We survived and at least in my case I was ordained the next year. In the process of helping each other survive a bond was formed.
After ordination we didn’t see each other for awhile. Mike went off to Korea where he threw himself into the service of God’s people by establishing pig farms to remedy their lack of protein. I taught in the seminary a couple of years then went to the Philippines.
When I came back, Mike was head of the Columban House in New York. We went on a vacation together and had lots of discussions about our experiences in the priesthood. We talked about the older priests that we didn’t want to be like. We talked about loneliness. We talked about friendship.
Within a year or two, I left the clerical priesthood but Mike continued on. He went back to Korea for a couple of terms. He got his master’s in counseling. He worked for Meals for Millions. He was a chaplain at hospitals and colleges. He got his doctorate in Ministry. Then he met the love of his life, Joyce. I’d like to say that they lived happily ever after but the “ever after” part was far too short.
Mike and Joyce had a wonderful marriage. I know because they told me. Even if they hadn’t told me, you couldn’t be around them without feeling how much they loved one another. Mike finally found the intimacy, the connection he had been seeking all his life. Every time we met, at some point, Mike would say, “Joyce is the best thing that ever happened to me!” I never argued with him.
Driving here to Boston the other day, I tried to think of a word that captured Mike’s spirit. I finally came up with three.
The first is abundanza, the Italian word for overflowing, richness, abundance. Mike never did anything halfway. In Korea when he saw the people needed more protein in their diet he didn’t invite them in to dinner. He started pig farms; introducing new breeds into the country, selling them at a price the farmers could afford.
Mike learned early that you don’t sing because you’re happy, you’re happy because you sing. Whenever the energy level would start to slip he would break into song whether he was digging in the garden, riding in a car, or preparing for a counseling session. Mike loved an audience but he didn’t need one to sing. His smile, his joy, everything about him was abundanza.
The second word for Mike was searcher. You can’t think of Mike without the dimension of searching. Mike was an explorer. He was never satisfied with things they way they were. He believed that if we tried a little harder, worked a little smarter, we could make things better. He was always looking for a better way. He knew there was a better way if we could just find it. He had so many questions. Now, at last I’m sure he has some answers.
And no description of Mike would be complete without the third word, faithful. Mike was faithful to the call he received at Baptism, to love God with his whole mind, his whole heart, and all his strength and to love his neighbor as himself. Mike was faithful to his calling after he left the clerical priesthood as much as he was before he left. He followed the faithfulness of his model, Jesus Christ. He loved his home; he loved to cook; he loved Sass, his old cat; he loved his friends and family; he loved the whole world. Mike never met anyone he didn’t like. He had a gift for making everyone feel they were the most important person in his life at that moment. Mike was faithful to his God.
Do you remember that old Latin hymn, Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est, where there is charity and love, there is God? We find God in friendship. Friends bring God to one another. I thank God that he chose Mike to bring God to me. Mike was God’s gift to me, and to all of you. We need to mourn his absence, we need to let our tears mend our broken hearts. We will miss God’s gift and why wouldn’t we.
When Kara, Mike’s stepdaughter, called to give us the news of Mike’s death, she said that just as he died a beautiful smile came over his face. Why wouldn’t he smile? He was surrounded by love, from his beloved Joyce, from Kara, Heather, Johnny and Terri, from Paula, Peter, John and Joanne, from all his friends.
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Where there is love, there is God.