Monsignor Forbes, pastor of St. Mary Cathedral in Saginaw, Michigan, delivered this eulogy for my Dad, Charles Francis Shea in May 1964. On the anniversary of his death, when I read over these words, I am reminded again of the man I did not know for very long - 12 years - but even though I was very young, I remember what a devoted parishioner he was and how important our church was to him.
For we have not here the last big city, but we speak one that is to come. These words, my dear friends, are taken from the Book of Hebrew, the New Testament, Chapter 13:14. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My dear friends we are continuously in life reminded of the fact that this Earth is not our final end and goal; we proceed from birth through infancy to maturity of middle years to old age, we are constantly reminded of the gradual dissipation of our strength and of our youth. And this concerns our own self. But we’re also reminded of the transcendence of Earthly things, nothing is certain and nothing is secure. Material things that we depend upon, they disappear. The governments that have ruled the world and the kings have come and gone. Everywhere we look about us we see change. Change in ourselves and change going on around about us. For we have not here our final goal, but we seek one that is to come.
This is certainly brought home to us today, very graphically and forcefully when we are present at the final rites of the church over the remains of one of her beloved sons, who died in his mature years, full of strength, vigor of health for whom God had other plans and called him unto his own. There was a lot of work remaining for him, the family is not yet raised. Why would God for example, call Charles Shea and not his beloved mother who has seen the fullness of her years? This is the plan of God and His providence that we do not know why one and not another. Why Charles Shea and not me, we are the same age? It brings home to us deeply, earnestly, the fact that our name is written in the book of life and that we know not the day nor the hour when we will be called to give an accounting of our stewardship.
My dear friends, all of us who have known Charles (Chuck) Shea, have our own personal thoughts about him. We think of the many kindnesses he has done to each and every one of us. The charity in his life that has brought you here in such numbers today to be present in this last gesture that you can make on behalf of this man, whom you love.
I can speak as the pastor of this church. This man was, in my mind, our number one parishioner. The convent which stands at 621 Hoyt Avenue is a monument to the zeal and industry of this beloved parishioner. He was in on its planning, he headed the funds raising campaign that helped pay for it. But he was a head not in name; he was a head in deed as well. He came when he was called at all hours of the day and night, and he spent many of them on behalf of his church and its work. There are few parishioners like that around these days but there aren’t very many of them. Pastors when they do find one, they are certainly Heaven-blessed. We have a parish in the thumb where two years ago they were celebrating their 75th anniversary. This is a flourishing little parish, not many families, but they are devoted families. And one of the pastors had done a kind of history of the place, told how in the days of beginning, the priest would send word that something was to be done on the church property or in the church building and these men, farmers all, would leave their horses standing in the field and they would come at the call of their priest and shepherd to do the work that was to be done. You don’t find many people like that anymore, but we have lost one in Chuck Shea.
For years he was a valued member of our choir. It’s his faithfulness to this body here that he brought them out in numbers to raise their voices in final farewell to him, their beloved member. He was active in every organization we had in the parish. For years in the Home and School Parent Teachers Association. The Athletic Club, he had picked it up by its boot straps and established it. He was a faithful member of the parish in every way.
And at the wake the other night, I heard somebody say, “He never harmed anyone in his life.” He went about doing good and he did no harm to any that have come into contact with him. You and I are for better because for a fleeting moment we have known Chuck Shea. We have known a true Christian gentleman, a true follower of Christ, who put the teachings of Christianity into practice in his daily life. St. Mary’s is going to be the worse because of his demise. You and I are going to feel a loss at his going. Certainly we hope that his going will leave us a little the better. That we will be able to put into practice and try to practice the virtues of Christian charity and zeal and helpfulness that we saw exemplified in his life. I hope that we are all better, better Christians because we were privileged to know Chuck Shea even for a short time.
To his Mother, his Wife, his Children, I extend my sincere sympathy, you have suffered a great loss, there’s emptiness in your life that can never be filled. We want you to know that you did your best and your utmost to preserve and to keep his body and soul joined together. But the moments of final disillusion decreed by Almighty God from all eternity has come for your loved one. Almighty God who had felt that the cup of his suffering had been filled to overflowing called him to Himself. That his stewardship on this Earth had been fulfilled and was to be no more. Medical science can do much to preserve human life but it cannot stay the moment of final disillusion. We would not want him back for more and further suffering on this Earth. We miss him, we admire the patience and the resignation for which he bore the trials that were visited upon him. We sincerely hope and pray that the God of Mercy will grant him the rest and peace and the happiness in the next life and eternal reward which he deserves for faithful fulfillment of the duties of his state of life here on Earth.
I sincerely hope that you who have gathered here in numbers this morning will remember him in your prayers, as I know from the prayers of the liturgy of the Mass we must ask eternal rest for each and every departed soul; that God may give the final and eternal peace to all who have died. For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.