Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Boston, A Priest Shows What He is Made for

A few years ago, I was struck by the homily of a visiting priest at my New Jersey parish, a man named Father John Wykes, O.M.V. who talked with us about his order and his mission and the severe priest shortage in the Philippines. Today, I encountered him again, in a Wall Street Journal article that made me reflect on a man I do not know, laboring largely in obscurity, for the good of our souls.

In his homily, Father John Wykes told the story of how, when he was six he saved up 35 cents for his first book.  Published by Paulist Press, the book is called “Who Knows Me?” Now middle-aged, Father Wykes still has the book, which he held up during his homily. He compared the joy of that purchase to the joy of Oblate seminarians given their very first book – Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis Spendor - in the seminary.

Father John Wykes is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, founded  in the early 19th century in Italy by the Venerable Pio Bruno Lanteri to encourage the spiritual rebirth of Catholics through retreats and parish missions. When he spoke at our parish, was Director of Media Communications for the U.S. Province, which comprises communities in Massachusetts, Colorado, Illinois and California, as well as the Cebu mission.

This morning I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal and his name popped right off my computer screen. It said, in part,  "The Rev. John Wykes, director of the St. Francis Chapel at Boston's soaring Prudential Center, and the Rev. Tom Carzon, rector of Our Lady of Grace Seminary, were among the priests who were turned away right after the bombings. It was jarring for Father Wykes, who, as a hospital chaplain in Illinois a decade ago, was never denied access to crime or accident scenes. "I was allowed to go anywhere. In Boston, I don't have that access," he says.

More than being intrigued by the issue of whether clergy should have immediate access to crime scenes, I was struck but not surprised by the understanding that this priest has been building the kingdom so to speak, for all these years, that he is a man who would rush to offer solace - potentially risking his life - for strangers in a dangerous situation. What a witness.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! What a wonderful witness and truly St. Francis chapel is absolutely wonderful..continued blessings to these men doing the work of our Lord selflessly everyday.

  2. Father John Wykes is a blessing to everyone who knows him! He is a faithful priest, shepherd and has the heart of Jesus. May God continue to bless his ministry at Saint Francis Chapel. I've been to the chapel and it really is a unique ministry.
    Thank you, Phyllis M