I first met Father Larry Delaney in 1988 while I was a parishioner at St. Francis parish in Ann Arbor. Father Charlie Irvin was the pastor of St. Francis at that time, and he and Father Larry were great friends. I remember being greatly amused by the banter that would break out whenever Father Larry and Father Charlie were in the same room. Usually, all that was required to get the ball rolling was some quip about the Spartans or the Wolverines – then stand back and watch the fun begin! Those conversations were opportunities to get to know two priests who have had a profound impact on my own priestly ministry.
When I was accepted into the seminary program for our diocese in 1992, I had the opportunity to attend the first of many seminarian retreats that were led by Father Larry in his role as director of St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt. I clearly recall my first seminarian retreat at St. Francis for two reasons. I found it difficult to sleep during the first night of the retreat because of the strange squawks I heard coming from the grounds near the retreat center. I spent most of that first night wondering how anyone could get more than a few minutes of sleep. The following morning, pretty bleary-eyed, I asked Father Larry about the cries I had heard during the night. I wondered if he knew what was making all the noise. He let me know that there was nothing to be afraid of – that was just the sound his peacocks made. Later that same day, I had a chance to visit the menagerie of wildlife that he kept in pens and barns on the retreat center grounds. What a collection – and how much Father Larry loved the fact that he had the space and time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
I also recall one of his famous lines from his reflections during the course of that retreat: “Remember this for life!” I have actually remembered some of the nuggets of wisdom which followed that exhortation. The one that stuck with me the most, and which has had the greatest meaning to me through the years, is the reminder to work hard to form an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude, Father Larry would always remind, stems first from the overwhelming goodness of God and the inexhaustible mercy and kindness that God has shown each of us through the years. Then there is gratitude for the gift of life and the wonderful diversity of gifts and skills and talents that each of us possesses thanks to God’s own generosity. That is followed by gratitude for the gift of meaning – the kind of meaning that can be found in the joys and struggles that are part of our daily living.
Father Larry, with his unique gifts of wit and wisdom, was a tremendous gift to the people of our diocese. He was a good neighbor during my time as pastor of St. Jude in DeWitt. He was always willing to listen, especially if there was a challenge at hand. Thank you, Father Larry, for being a good friend and neighbor; thank you most of all for not being a “vocation fighter,” as you once put it. Thank you for responding to God’s call to priesthood. We are all the better for it.
The leadership of St. Francis Retreat Center now passes to Father David Rosenberg, a very talented priest of our diocese. Father David’s many gifts are underpinned by deep faith and trust in God as he has responded to his own unique vocational journey. I have no doubt the retreat center is in good hands. With Father David’s guidance and his own unique blend of humor and faith, aided by a talented staff, the goodness of God will continue to be experienced by so many in the years ahead.
And so, our journey in FAITH continues.