The Reverend John F. Randall, 82, Pastor Emeritus of St. Charles Borromeo Church, Providence, died on Tuesday, June 14, 2011.
Born in Newport, Rhode Island, son of the late Robert A. and Marie (Niland) Randall, he attended St. Mary and St. Augustin Schools and De LaSalle Academy in Newport.
In preparation for the priesthood, he studied at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick and at the Grand Seminaire in St. Brieuc, France. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1953 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Providence by the Most Reverend Russell J. McVinney.
On June 10, 1953, Father Randall was appointed chaplain at Mt. St. Rita Novitiate in Cumberland and teacher at St. Raphael’s Academy in Pawtucket. In September 1955, he was transferred to St. Joseph Church, Pawtucket as assistant pastor and continued to teach at St. Raphael’s Academy. In September 1958, he became teacher at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick. After a summer assignment as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church in East Providence, he was sent to the University of Louvain in Belgium for post graduate studies in Sacred Scripture. After his return from Louvain, Father Randall was appointed professor at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick on September 10, 1962 and later spiritual director in December 1963. Then in June 1971, he was transferred as assistant pastor to St. Patrick Church in Providence. In December 1976, he became full time staff person in a Program for Renewal in the Spirit and in September 1978, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Providence and continued his work for Renewal in the Spirit until his retirement in June 2001 as Pastor Emeritus.
In addition to his parish and teaching work, Father Randall served also as Diocesan Consultor (1966); Synodal Examiner (1967); member of the Commission on Project Clergy Renewal (1970); member of the Committee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the United States; directed the Spirit and the Word program on radio and TV.
Father Randall is survived by a brother, the Reverend Robert J. Randall, and three sisters: Sr. Mary Randall, SSJ, of Providence, Mrs. Theresa Zimmerly of Elyria, Ohio, and Mrs. Joan Soares of Newport, Rhode Island; also a number of nieces and nephews.
The Solemn Transferal of his body was celebrated on June 17 at St. Charles Church in Providence presided by Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, retired bishop of Providence. A concelebrated Mass of Christian burial was offered for the repose of his soul at St. Charles Church on June 18th with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin as the main celebrant and Bishop Robert C. Evans, Bishop Ernest B. Boland, Bishop Francis X. Roque, retired auxiliary bishop of the Military Archdiocese and Daniel P. Reilly, retired bishop of Worcester, concelebrated. The homilist was Rev. Robert Randall, brother of the deceased. Burial was in St. Columba Cemetery, Middletown, RI.
To read the homily delivered at the funeral Mass, please log onto www.thericatholic.com Keyword: Funeral
Father Robert Randall’s Homily of Father John F. Randall 1-12-31-1928 to 6-15-2011
The bible readings were chosen by my Sister Mary and me to reflect Father John's three major concerns; first with the Old Testament prophets who call us to repentance and remind us of God's power and fidelity to his promises, secondly, the reading from Wednesday, the day of his death.
His concern with St. Paul's teaching on ecumenical unity, on the Body of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; thirdly his concern with Jesus' prayer for priests and all of us, a prayer for intimacy through faith and love, a prayer from John's Gospel that Father John chose as the subject of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Louvain.
We come to church today as we always do to praise God in his work of creation and salvation, or as the Psalms sing, his work of loving kindness and endless fidelity. We come in this week of Pentecost to thank Him for sending his only Son to save us and for sending the Holy Spirit to build his church. We come to the altar in the presence of "myriads of angels," in the presence of the apostles and all the saints of heaven, to offer sacrifice for the salvation of all men and women. We come now in this sad but happy hour to pray for Father John Randall, former pastor and rebuilder of this Church of St. Charles, that he be totally purified for the enjoyment of divine life with his Master and Lord, the risen and glorified Jesus Christ. Father John's hero St. Paul wrote, "The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the spirit."(II Cor3:l7-l8) May John know now the fullness of Christ's glory, face to face.
Those of us who really knew Father John have no doubt that King Jesus will give him a royal welcome. Those of us on earth can rejoice in having known a true man of God. Father McGovern summed up our feelings when he said to me Wednesday: "When I was with John I never had a single doubt that he was a man of the Spirit, pure gold." And I would add, he was not only a great priest of the Diocese of Providence but a great priest of the world. Jim Stapleton, our undertaker, told me that he had phone calls on Wednesday from Canada and seven states outside Rhode Island, all this before the announcement in the papers. Father John was God's gift to the world.
1'll order my remarks about Father John under three headings: John in the Randall family, John in his first 20 years of priesthood; John in his last 38 years.
John grew up in a family formed by the Word of God. Father Anthony Sarsfield Cotter, curate of St. Mary's, taught us the family rosary long before Father Paynton and consecrated our family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He spent much of his life training choir and altar boys into secret societies and teaching us the skills of baseball, football and camping. His ghost stories during our overnight camping trips to Lawton's Valley were spellbinding. Then when dad moved to St. Augustin's parish in 1938, Father Cotter would store his athletic equipment in our garage in preparation for practice sessions at Richmond Field. Many a young man owed his development in faith and in sports to Father Cotter. He was GOING MY WAY long before Bing Crosby.
At St. Augustin's we had a devoted pastor Father Joe Coleman who insured we knew our religion. Though we went to his parochial school, we still had to attend bible study for public school students on Sunday afternoons. Father Coleman actively pursued us to our priestly vocations, first to John, and then to me. Besides these saintly priests there was the Sisters of Mercy whom dad and mom knew well since they provided taxi service for them. And then there were the good Sisters of St. Joseph who educated my sisters at St. Catherine's Academy, all friends of the family.
If you ask the Randall family they will tell you they see Father John no different now than they did years ago. He is the same one who tells kookie jokes and puns, the same one who throws grapes up in the air to catch them one by one in his mouth and sometimes, to entertain his nieces and nephews, teaches them at table to throw tiny tomatoes in the air to catch in their mouth and then to talk sports with them.. John never missed a family celebration or an opportunity to give help and encouragement to cousins and neighbors. As a boy I fought strongly with him on the tennis court, basketball court, football field but never on the golf course, mainly because he worked as a teen at Bailey's Beach and I at Newport Country Club. In later life we would always meet for the big games or tournaments and celebrate with dinner. I planned last Monday to have dinner with him and Sister Mary in a restaurant when we could watch the final holes of the US Open golf tournament on this Sunday, tomorrow. He was always an ardent fan of our Boston teams; he had little use for the Pittsburgh Steelers or the NY Yankees.
Throughout our family history he was a great celebrator of mom and dad. One of his joys was escorting my mother around Ireland during the summer just before he finished his seminary studies in France. Perhaps his greatest joy was hosting Pop Randall at St. Charles' Rectory for the final seven years of dad's life. And he was not at all jealous that dad had more famous visitors than he had! John's last visits to Newport were just two weeks ago, one for my sister Joan's 70th birthday, my 60th anniversary, and my sister Theresa's 50th wedding anniversary; the other visit 5 days later was for his grand niece's graduation from St. George's Academy.
2nd, his first 20 years of priesthood... In 1953 John returned home from the Grande Seminary in Brittany, France, a frail and tough young man, after 5 years in an old cold stone building without heat. But he was joyful after being tutored along with Joe Heaney and Dan Reilly by the saintly and scholarly Father Herve. He loved his early priestly ministry with the nuns at Mount St. Rita's and with the students at St. Raphael's. To this day I hear from those he tutored and from those he served at St. Joseph's in Pawtucket. Bishop McVinney recognized his spiritual qualities and soon sent him to Louvain to prepare him as Spiritual Director at his Seminary in Warwick, where I happened to be teaching. Before I knew it, Bishop McVinney named me to be the College Seminary Rector. I don't think I had any difficulty there with my brother, though I had lots of difficulty with the senior seminarians and a few of the faculty. I do remember John taking some seminarians to NY to introduce them to the world of the CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE. Father John was a popular spiritual director who taught more by example than by words. And during those first 20 years he was a much loved priest in the parishes where he helped out and most beloved as a director in the Cursilio Movement, a movement he used to develop leaders in our parishes throughout the diocese. That Movement survives in different forms throughout the world. I was the priest leader in one at Boca Raton, Florida for five years.
3. The next 38 years for Father John were indeed more dramatic and colorful. He had heard of the explosive coming of the Holy Spirit on some eight priests at Duchaine University in 1968. Within a couple of years, the Holy Spirit visited John to give him a whole new experiential knowledge of the Risen Christ with the ambition to renew his church. First, he left the Seminary with Father Ray Kelly to form St. Patrick’s on Smith Street in 1971, an experiment in shared community life with households modeled on the early church. He led the Prayer Group on Thursday evenings with the conviction that whatever Jesus did in his ministry 2,000 years ago Christians with faith empowered by the Holy Spirit could do today, and could do even greater things, as the Lord promised. God responded to John’s faith and his life of prayer, fasting and penance in such a way that St. Patrick’s became a City of God set on a hill. To this day Father John never wavered in his faith conviction that God in the power of the Holy Spirit would do today what He did through Jesus in his day. He told me many times that he experienced everything that Jesus experienced in his ministry of healing and the giving of life.
After a few years, in his zeal for evangelization, he began his daily radio programs of bible study, a work that continued with a group of men for 30 years. With the guidance of his friend Bishop Gelineau he began fulltime in 1976 the Program for Renewal in the Spirit and two years later Bishop Gelineau allowed him to put that program into practice as Pastor of St. Charles. I remember John telling me of the advice Billy Graham gave him to form a parish: "Do what Jesus did. Choose twelve good men, meet with them every morning from 6 to 7 and form them into evangelists. Then work and pray with them, suffer and die with them, to build the Community of Christ on Dexter Street.” That's an outline of what Father John did at St. Charles, but instead of 12 men he ended up with 100 dedicated disciples that formed the core of St. Charles parish. The first ten years were difficult years of physical and spiritual warfare, even as his Prayer Meetings grew in intensity and number. He began all his works of Marian Devotion, of Eucharistic Adoration, Life in the Spirit Seminars, evangelization programs, developing leaders for the Right to Life, the work of feeding the hungry, healing the sick with the aid of Dr. Maglio and others, preaching the Full Gospel on radio, at conferences and at liturgies, giving retreats and giving leadership to the Charismatic Movement at Steubenville and throughout the country, in ecumenical work at the Community of Jesus down at Orleans, and the work of developing vocations to the religious life. But nothing did he do without an epiclesis, the invoking of the Holy Spirit for direction and strength. He was convinced that "unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain to build it.”
In such a way did the Church of St. Charles come to expansive life and honor, to fruitfulness. The parish has evangelized 5.000 adults in its Life in the Spirit Seminars and has had 21 young men and women enter the seminary or religious life. The present Deacon Jose and Father Garcia are products of Father John’s ministry at St. Charles. As Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” John wrote that as Catholics we have the fullness of biblical revelation; we have it all. But we get very arrogant and don't put into practice what we have. "Often our Protestant and our Pentecostal brothers and sisters put us to shame by the way they use what they have." Such is Father John's challenge to us all: to use what we have in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Father John worked unsparingly for the work of Christ and his Holy Spirit. And though he suffered greatly these past four years from a fall in the parking lot of St. Charles and recently from cancer, even in retirement he worked with full time dedication. Though he never enjoyed writing, he produced in recent years four small books of unusual insights: THE BOOK OF REVELATION: What does it mean? WISDOM INSTRUCTS HER CHILDREN, The power of the Spirit and the Word; MARY, BARRIER OR BRIDGE; and NO SPIRIT, NO CHURCH, words taken from the Eastern Bishops of the Second Vatican Council as they read and rejected the Roman prepared Document on the Nature of the Church. I must say after reading these books the past few days that they contain some great theological insights and powerful reasons to change our style of ministry. His last book on the Church is now in its second edition and I'm sure will go into its third edition. If so, that will mean 10,000 copies without any public means of advertising. And if you want a copy, you must really search to find one!
Father John had lots of critical things to say, but like his hero St. Paul, he said them with meekness and gentleness, but like Paul he was not without his fiery boldness. Though he was disappointed in the church's neglect of the Holy Spirit and our diocese's exclusion of him in the work of evangelization and parish formation, the work of training catechists and deacons, he never ended with a word of anger or pessimism.
He wondered at the end of his career what his next work should be. He would quote to me the dilemma of St. Paul found in his Letter to the Phillipians: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet, what I should choose I cannot tell. My desire is to depart