Saturday was a special day! That day would have been the 75th birthday of Monsignor Paul Reynolds had he lived. Over the weekend I was not able to access my computer and so this post had to wait until now. Monsignor Reynolds was a very important and beloved man in the lives of countless numbers of people whom he served as a priest, pastor and friend during his 47 years of priesthood. For me he held a particular place of importance since he was my childhood pastor when I was growing up at Saint John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia, a beautiful suburban community just northeast of Atlanta. Later, he became a dear friend, confidant and mentor to me in the initial years of my own priestly ministry.
Monsignor Reynolds was a revered figure in the Archdiocese of Atlanta where he served as a parochial vicar, pastor of several parishes including the founding pastor of Saint John Neumann, my home parish, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General. He was greatly respected for his spirituality, inimitable sense of humor, charm, wit and love for everyone he ever encountered. That love was returned to him many times over by the parishioners he served so well.
I am sure I have not been the only one thinking of Father Reynolds over these last few days and I certainly did not want this occasion to go by without a special mention here.
Below I include excerpts from my remarks at the time of Monsignor Reynolds’ death on December 18, 2010 along with a few photos which were taken on the day of my ordination to the priesthood, May 17, 2003 at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. You can read the full account of his life, death and funeral on this blog in the archived entries from December, 2010.
“I became closer to Father Reynolds following my ordination to the priesthood in 2003. In fact, immediately after Cardinal Egan had given my classmates and I the “Call” to the priesthood on March 19, 2003, the Feast of Saint Joseph, I called Father Reynolds to ask him to come to my ordination. Father Reynolds, who was then the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, was still recovering from his orignial treatments for leukemia and was not yet in full health. However, I told him that he was a large part of the reason why I was being ordained and that if he did not come I was not going to attend my own ordination! Well, needless to say, Father Reynolds attended that occasion at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and I recall his words to me in the sacristy shortly before the start of the Mass. He said, with his face beaming with pride and a broad smile, “well, Chris, we’ve come a long way since those days in the sacristy at Saint John Neumann!” Shortly after I was ordained Father Reynolds gave me some wise advice that I have always remembered and that has been an invaluable help to me. He instructed me that as I moved along in the priesthood and to various parishes that I would interact with many different people. He said that they fall in many different locations on the spectrum of life – some are burdened with enormous problems, full of sins and difficulties. There will be others you will meet who are walking saints who will daily inspire you to be better than you are. And, he said, “somewhere in the middle of it all is Father Chris Monturo!” And so, he said, “always try to meet people where they are and not where you want or expect them to be!” In 2007, following my appointment as Pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua, I called Father Reynolds to share the good news. He immediately congratulated me and conveyed his sentiments of personal pride. Before the end of the conversation I asked him if he had any “pastoral advice” he might wish to impart. ”Yes”, he said, “I will tell you what I was told when I assumed my first pastorate – two things – first, be yourself and second, give them all you got! – if you do that you’ll be very successful!” His words were, as always, wise and true. And, I must admit, that I learned more about the priesthood from Father Reynolds in these last few years than from all other priests I know and all of the years I spent in the seminary combined…
…And, what he did in the years that followed at Saint John Neumann and at every parish he led was to create a “family”, a “community” of believers where all were welcomed and where God was loved. Father Reynolds “formed a people”. There was in every parish Father Reynolds was part of a great spirit of joy, charity and faithfulness. And, there was something about Father Reynolds that is more than the homilies he gave or the words he spoke or the deeds he did. Everything that he said and did was memorable and important because it was He who said it, it was He who was doing it. Father Reynolds bore the presence of something greater than himself, a palpable love which drew people to him and which gave hope and life that will, no doubt, last long beyond his death. That love which Father Reynolds carried has a name: Jesus Christ!
Father Paul H. Reynolds is a living witness of the Presence of Jesus Christ among us. Certainly, in the days ahead there will be many memories shared and testaments to his life given but I am sure that Father Reynolds would want nothing more than that all of these remembrances lead each one of us closer to Jesus Christ, whom he loved and served so faithfully during his life on this earth.”
Monsignor Reynolds and me immediately following my ordination to the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, May 17, 2003. In my hands I am holding the official documents attesting my valid ordination as a priest and also the document officially assigning me to my first parish – Saint Theresa of the Infant Jesus in the Bronx.
Monsignor Reynolds places his hands on my head during the Rite of Ordination. We can both be seen in the center of the photograph.
Here I embrace Father Reynolds and give him my first priestly blessing. When I was asked by the faculty of the seminary where I would like to give my first blessings after the Mass of Ordination at the Cathedral my response was easy - ”the Altar of Saint John Neumann!” While most of the ordinandi fight over the Lady Chapel which is the “prized” place to give first blessings, I was more interested in Saint John Neumann since that was my home parish, it was a place very special to Father Reynolds and to me and because as a child my grandparents often took me to that Altar in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to pray and light candles. So giving my first blessings there was a little bit like a homecoming for me!
This prayer card was distributed at a Mass last year to remember the first anniversary of Father Reynolds’ death on December 18, 2010. The Mass was held at Saint Brigid’s Catholic Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, Father Reynolds’ last pastorate.