His Life Dilemma

The many communities that Father Jim Healy served during 35 years as a Catholic priest came together recently at his memorial service. The atmosphere was celebratory—scripture, music, sermon, poetry, and personal recollections all testified to the firm belief that Jim had passed from mortality to eternal happiness.

The texts and speakers laid particular emphasis on a God who is mercy, and how loving care for the most needy of the brothers and sisters becomes the final judgment on our lives. These were themes that Father Healy had stressed and lived throughout his years in ministry.

Mention was made of Healy’s many accomplishments: his 12 years as the beloved and forceful pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Arlington, Virginia; his decision in the early 1980s to become a lawyer in order to help immigrants to the United States; his founding of the Washington Office on Haiti, as an advocacy center for that nation and its people.

The two-and-a-half-hour service fairly flew by as the various communities listened to one another and rejoiced in the tributes offered about this special friend, family member, pastor, brother priest, advocate, and, yes, prophet. The outpouring of affection and celebration reminded me of a much more grandiose funeral held recently in Chicago for Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The passing of good and dedicated gospel ministers so often evokes such heartfelt tributes. It’s as if the communities they have served are echoing Christ’s words: "Well done, good and faithful servant...."

THIS TOUCHING memorial for Jim Healy should have surprised no one, therefore, except for the fact that he was gay and died with AIDS. Those dimensions of his life lent special poignancy to his funeral and left me, at least, with long thoughts about sexual orientation, mandatory celibacy, and God’s overriding parental love.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1997
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