April 15-21, 2004
A Charismatic Charismatic
By Friar Phil Kelly, OFM Conv./ SUN contributing writer
Franciscan Priest Who Led Renewal in Syracuse Diocese Dies During Holy Week
“We go grieving as though for a brother, a friend” — Psalm 37
Normally I can sit down at my laptop and the words come rather easily. Most of the time, the opening sentence comes to me and I just let the Spirit take over and I go from there. That is not the case this time. When one is writing about a brother who lives just down the hall, it is not too easy. When that brother is Regis Rodda the pain is doubled, tripled. Death can be so banal, so ordinary. For months Regis had been complaining about fatigue. At the same time, he was enthusiastic about new projects he had in various stages of implementation for the variety of groups with whom he has been working. I spent many Saturday afternoons with him helping him sort out some priorities, but each week he would arrive in my room with a “I just met this really neat person and we are going to …” and I never knew what would come next.
Last Wednesday we spent a couple of hours discussing some of his projects, some of which he had to let go. As he left, he mentioned how he was looking forward to seeing his cardiologist the next day. On Thursday he said that the doctor was positive. “I am going to run up to Eckerd’s to pick up a new prescription, and I’ll be back for prayers.” He was found slumped over in his car in the parking lot. The police had him taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital. He never regained consciousness and died April 5. The friars in his friary are almost numb with grief — how do you deal with losing a brother that way? Regis was a man of such massive inconsistencies that he could only have been a Franciscan. Francis could turn on a dime, so could Regis. The only constant in his life was his love for Christ; the rest was explainable only by him. He actually healed people, but last week he was waiting for the trout season to open. He loved the outdoors, and God’s creation. He paid his way in high school by trapping. He continually lamented that he had the same four bullets in his deer rifle for the last five years.
When he went to the seminary it did not take long for his classmates to give him a nickname. As is the case in these things, the name was dead on. He was called ‘Turtle’ — a tribute to his stocky build, his slow pace and his non-stop determination. He suffered, but he never quit. Many nights when his heart pain got too severe you could find him in chapel, just sitting there in silent prayer. He went out to Christ the King Retreat Center for a day of recollection last week, but took note of where the turkeys were roosting on the grounds and was planning to sleep in a tree so he would be ready for the toms when they took flight in the morning. He had a massive cross built for the Charismatic Renewal event at the OnCenter a few years ago, but he did not let it conflict with his skill in building and flying model airplanes. He went on priest’s retreats in the Papal Retreat House in Castel Gandolfo; he also never missed the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
The only way of summing this man up is to say that everyone thought they had a really unique insight into him, but, in fact, none of us knew the whole picture. He did not hide any facet; he assumed that everyone lived that way. No doubt it will be said of him what was said of one of our other friars on the occasion of his death: “I’ll bet you think that you were Friar ______’s best friend, don’t you. Well, so did a hundred other guys.” How did he describe himself? I have been in the process of putting together a website for Assisi in Syracuse, a one-stop-information site for what we are doing here, and after six months of badgering, here is how Regis described himself:
From: Regis Rodda To: Phil Kelly Date: March 14, 2004 3:51 PM Subject: Website bio “I have been a Franciscan Friar for over fifty years, and I will have been ordained for 44 years on May 23, of this year. Over the years I have taught high school; been athletic director at Assumption Academy here in Syracuse; have been associate pastor and parish administrator in Toronto, Ontario and Syracuse. I particularly enjoyed being involved in securing land and helping to establish John XXIII Parish and building a Catholic /Presbyterian Worship Center in Flemington Park, Ontario, Canada.
My life as a Franciscan Friar and as a priest took on a profound improvement when I came upon the Catholic Charismatic Renewal while I was in Toronto. This was a life-changing experience, and I have been involved in the Renewal ever since. I now work full time in the Renewal, and especially in the healing ministry. I work as the liaison for Bishop Moynihan in the Syracuse Diocese setting up seminars, retreats, courses, and conferences, to enable and to facilitate the powerful graces of the Charismatic Renewal to be unleashed throughout the Syracuse Diocese. This is the real joy of my life, a ministry of prayer, healing, teaching and organizing to enable Jesus Christ to continue His beautiful ministry in our world.” So goodbye, my brother, the world will not see the like of you in the near future, and that is our loss.