Editor’s note: The following column first appeared in The Tidings in July 2015. It has been updated by the author in light of Msgr. Richey’s death last month.
When I came into the Church 26 years ago, I wasn’t friends with a single practicing Catholic, much less a Catholic who might understand that I’d been led to Christ through my recovery from alcoholism.
Then I met Msgr. Thomas Terrence Richey, known by recovering alcoholics and addicts throughout the archdiocese and beyond as Father Terry.
Anyone who knew Father Terry knew that he was the king of the one-liner.
“Drinking never made me happy — but it made me feel like I was going to be happy in 15 minutes.”
“The good news is God loves you. The bad news is he loves everyone else, too.”
A native of Hawthorne, Father Terry entered the seminary at 14, served as director of Alcohol/Substance Abuse Ministry for the archdiocese for many years, and throughout the decades conducted interventions, led retreats nationwide, and was a friend to many at first glance “very unpromising” people.
For decades he directed alcoholics and addicts to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He’s also observed what happens to them once they get there.
“To be a drunk and get sober,” he pointed out, “is one of the ultimate death-and-resurrection experiences. When Christ said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ some of the people he must surely have been thinking about were alcoholics and addicts. It’s a wonderful gift for a person to see, left to his or her own devices, the depths to which we’re capable of sinking. Sometimes I don’t know how people come to a relationship with Christ without hitting bottom with some kind of addictive, obsessive behavior.”
Father Terry would go on to become a monsignor. I was able to visit him over Thanksgiving at the memory care facility where he spent the last year or so of his life. He died in December, on the winter solstice.
He always, always made me laugh. One spiritual director he used for years was Mark Kennedy, himself a recovering alcoholic. “Mark used to say: ‘There’s only one unforgivable sin. And that’s to avoid God until you’re in good enough shape to fool him.’ ”
The funeral Mass for Father Terry was held this morning at St. Basil Church in Los Angeles.
Full story at Angelus News.