Saturday, June 25, 2016

Father Denny: Fisher Of Men

When a person that everybody loved has died,  this phrase is often uttered.

"Why does God always take the good ones?"

Last week, one of the "good ones" was taken.

My first memory of him was in high school.  I can't remember if we ever met.  I only knew him as the moderator and advisor to my older brother's senior class.  

Fast forward 11 years and he would be the only face I'd recognize in the sea of 50+ family members of my friend Bill as he introduced me on Christmas Eve while on our second date.  

I had known that Mr. Denny had become Father Denny, O.S.A. during those years in between.  And soon Father Denny would become Uncle John to me when Bill and I married.

Our encounters were typically at family weddings, baptisms, funerals, special masses, and Christmas Eve.  Oh, the gift of having a priest in the family!  You could listen to him speak and never tire of it.  He spoke the gospel with great fervor, embellished his stories (just a tiny bit) and celebrated a beautiful mass.  Anyone who met him could see, feel, and hear the joy he had in his vocation.

So, why does God take the "good ones?"  This week as his family stood in line for 2 viewings, one mass for his parishioners, and one funeral mass, receiving well over 1000 people, the answer was clear.

He was a Fisher of Men.  

His life exemplified Jesus' words in Matthew 4:19.  Throughout Fr. Denny's life, he encountered many, many people and touched them in deep and meaningful ways.  In fact, a Facebook page was set up in his name--first as a support for him when he became sick with cancer--and now as a support for all who knew him.  It has become a way to share the wealth of love for the man he was. 

And the man he was, was a follower of Christ.  A devoted Catholic who brought the love of Jesus to all he met while he was alive and continues to do in death.  His encounters will have a ripple effect for years and years to come.

Father Denny had a custom at the conclusion of each baptism he celebrated.  He would flash that famous smile and say to the baby, "Welcome Aboard!"  It always made me smile.

My hope is that one day I will see him again at the gates of Heaven and hear him say one more time,

Welcome Aboard!


  1. My friend,
    I am so very sorry.
    What a beautiful tribute to an amazing soul!
    Thank you for the link.
    I am in awe of the many,,many, stories from those who knew him and were blessed to have him in their lives!
    Prayers and love.
    Can you even imagine the joy he experienced when he realized his Heavemly reward?!

  2. Hi Kathleen, That was a beautiful tribute to a great man. He was a special person and will be surely missed. My heart goes out to the entire Sweeney family. He is home in heaven. Love, Brother Bob

  3. What a beautiful tribute. I can tell how much he'll be missed, but imagine all the prayers he can send now from Heaven to all of you here, on earth.

  4. Tish O'Hara AmbornJune 28, 2016 at 12:32 AM

    Beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to write such a beautiful tribute.

  5. Aw. I'm sorry. It's never easy to lose someone dear to us.
    Beautiful tribute. You're blessed to have known him.

  6. Thank you, Kathleen. Your reflections are wonderful and beautifully written.

  7. What a beautiful tribute...I am sorry for your loss.