I attended the funeral and burial of my classmate and good friend, Benedictine Abbot Patrick Regan, at St. Joseph Abbey, February 14, 2017.
Jack, as we called him in the seminary, died peacefully at the Abbey in St. Benedict, Louisiana, on February 8. He was 79 years old.
Attending his funeral were six bishops, four abbots, many priests and seminarians. The laity filled the whole congregation area. The priests had to sit on folding chairs in the church archways. Jack’s brother, Thomas Regan and other family members, were also present.
Jack graduated from Holy Cross High School in New Orleans in 1955 and joined my class in the junior college formation of St. Joseph Seminary. We got along well and played a lot of basketball together. One monk asked me if I still played basketball. I told him I have a hard time walking much less playing any sport.
Jack and I were from New Orleans and often shared our time together during the holidays. Our vocations “crossed” when we were in the college seminary. I was studying to be a Benedictine Monk and he was studying to be a diocesan priest. He became a monk and I became a diocesan priest.
In 1958, Jack was received into the St. Joseph Abbey’s novitiate, and made his profession as a Benedictine monk in 1959. He took the religious name Patrick.
Patrick continued his studies at Notre Dame Seminary and Loyola University in New Orleans and later at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. After ordination to the priesthood in 1965, he began studies at the Institut Catholique and the Institut Supérieur de Liturgie in Paris, where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1971.
Patrick and I kept up with each other as best we could during those days. I even met him in Paris when I was conducting a tour in France. When he returning to his monastery, Patrick began a teaching career at St. Joseph Seminary College that would last until 2001. He also taught in summer programs at St. John’s University and, later, at Notre Dame University.
Fr. Patrick was elected the fourth abbot of St. Joseph Abbey in 1982. Even during this time we got together and discussed the highs and lows our ministries as a pastor and an abbot. The accomplishment for which we best know him is the renovation of the abbey church, which began in 1996 and culminated in the church’s dedication in 1998.
Abbot Patrick resigned as abbot in 2001 and accepted a faculty appointment at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at the Pontificio Ateneo Sant’ Anselmo, the Benedictine university in Rome. He also held several positions in the monastic community at the Collegio Sant’ Anselmo.
During this time overseas, Patrick and I did not get together as much as we used to when he was home in the Abbey. In December 2013, the doctors diagnosed Abbot Patrick with acute myeloid leukemia and he was hospitalized while in Rome. His struggle with the disease dominated the remainder of his life. He fought a hard battle but the disease finally got the best of him.
Last summer I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with him for lunch in Madisonville on the historic Tchefuncte River. We talked all afternoon and caught up with what has been happening in our lives. Our getting together really picked up his spirits.
Abbot Patrick loved liturgy. I want to close with a quotation from his writings:
“The burning candle is essentially sacrificial for by giving light it consumes itself even as Christ gives life through his death. The wounds of Jesus do not vanish. Nor do they heal. The Risen One lives precisely as crucified! In the evening of the first day of the week Jesus stands among his disciples and shows them his hands and his side. Eight days later he does the same, bidding Thomas to touch the holes in his hands and side. The Risen One lives precisely as crucified! The paschal candle, then, bearing its five nails, connects the vigil not only backward with Good Friday but forward with the octave day, indeed all fifty days of Easter.”
May he rest in peace!
Posted on Fri, February 24, 2017
by The Lafourche Gazette