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Our Spiritual Director

An Interview with Rev. Richard F. Clancy*, our spiritual director:

Q:

Tell me a little bit about your early years and family life?

A:

I was born on April 18, 1960 in Winchester, MA. It was the day after Easter Sunday. I lived my entire early life in Woburn, MA. My parents were high school sweethearts who both graduated from Woburn High in 1950. My father was the Valedictorian and my mother the class secretary. They both grew up in Woburn, as did their parents. I had very deep roots in the community on both sides of my family. My mother is of Italian heritage and my father was Irish. My father died in 1996 at the age of 63. He was a beautiful, gentle, saintly man. I miss him very dearly. My mother and I are very close. I am her “baby.” I have two older brothers: Charles and David. Charles lives in Louisville, KY with his wife and 15 year old daughter. My brother David lives in the Boston area and he and his wife have three children ranging in age from 19 to 6. Like all brothers we fought quite a bit as children, but now we are very good, close friends. We had a great family life. My parents sacrificed quite a bit for us and God and family were always at the center of life. It is interesting how much I value now what I thought then was “normal.” For example, when I came home from high school, often as late as 7 or 8 pm, both my mother and father would drop whatever they were doing to come and sit with me while I ate my supper. They always wanted to talk with me about what was going on in my life; they were always there for me. My mother still is! It is hard to express the love I grew up with, but you just have to understand how present it was and still is in many ways.

Q:

What were your interests?

A:

I loved sports. I played football and basketball in high school. As time goes by I hear some try to say that I was “outstanding.” That is not true. I was good enough to play. There was nothing particularly outstanding about my ability in any way. If people remember my athletic involvement at all they remember me as someone who gave great effort. I was also senior class president of my high school class. I went to public high school. Our graduating class had 640 students in it and our class was considered small at the time so you can imagine how crowded our school was. I was also always involved in the Church. I was an altar server, worked at the rectory and in high school I worked as a custodian in the Church during summers.

Q:

Were you a good student?

A:

I was a good student, certainly not a great student. I found a lot of school boring. I started to like studying in college. In high school I thought six hours was a long time to wait until football practice started.

Q:

What is your education?

A:

I have a bachelor’s degree from Merrimack College in Philosophy; a Master’s in Divinity from St. John’s Seminary; a Master’s in Education from UMass Boston and presently I am taking courses at Boston College toward a Ph. D in Education. I have been a much better student in graduate school than in high school, but again, I am certainly not of extraordinary intelligence by any means.

Q:

Are you studying full time?

A:

No. The diocese in its wisdom has not “sent me to study”; I study on my own time and on my own resources. Presently I am the director of campus ministry for the archdiocese of Boston. I was ordained in 1991 as a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston. I spent five years in Hyde Park (which is an inner city parish in Boston) as a parish priest. In 1996 I was assigned to campus ministry at Emmanuel College and UMass Boston. In 2001 I became Archdiocesan director of campus ministry.

Q:

Did you always know that you would be a priest?

A:

Yes and no. When I was a young boy I wanted to be a priest. I knew by the end of college that I wanted to go into the seminary to discern if God was calling me to priesthood. I left after three years and then I thought I would not be a priest. I was very disillusioned by what I saw and experienced in the Seminary. Through our current crisis at least some of these issues are finally being addressed. God called me back in a very dramatic and personal way after four years and I returned to the seminary with a peace that God was inviting me and I was responding in freedom. He called me back with the Scripture passage involving St. Peter and Jesus when Jesus asked Peter: “Do you love me?” It was as if Jesus was asking me that question and my life since that moment has been a very limited and sinful response to the love I know that Jesus has for me. Like I said, I try to live that love in freedom, not in compulsion.

Q:

In more than twelve years of priesthood I am sure that you have had many experiences. What stands out in your mind?

A:

Wow! I have had more graces in my lifetime than any hundred people could hope to have. I have had the opportunity to meet literally thousands of people, shared real special, holy moments with genuine friends, take pilgrimages to Poland, Italy, Israel, and Venezuela. I have witnessed the extraordinary goodness and faithfulness of people carrying heavy burdens and the eternal faithfulness of God. What always stands out most in my mind, however, is the indescribable privilege, despite my unworthiness, of being a representative of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. How can I put into words what it is like to celebrate Eucharist, Penance and, in fact, all the sacraments!

Q:

Father, many people claim that you are a “special priest” to them. There are many stories told about you. Is it true that, for example, Maria Esperanza prophesied over you for an extended period of time?

A:

Yes.

Q:

A religious who was there reported that among other things Maria said you “had the lips of Paul and the feet of Peter.” Is that true?

A:

I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t talk about things like that to anyone.

Q:

Do you, then, possess any special gifts such as the gift of healing or the ability to read souls?

A:

I am uncomfortable in claiming any gifts and I am suspicious of people who do claim special “gifts”. I have prayed over some people and they have been healed; I have prayed over many others and they have not been healed. Healing happens at God’s initiative, not mine. Likewise, there are times that God has used me as an instrument, for example, in hospital ministry to understand languages that I do not speak in order that a person might receive the Sacraments. These are not “my gifts’. I have no control over them and I cannot will them to happen. How I respond to questions like yours is to say that since I am totally dependent on God for my next breath I cannot claim to possess any gift. On the other hand, since I am a willing instrument of God and His Holy Spirit I have trust that I will receive whatever gift is necessary at any moment in time for the benefit of souls. That is true for everyone who gives God permission to use them. I am certainly not special in any way. Most of the other kind of discussion about “special gifts” etc. takes glory away from God and is rooted in flesh and ego, not God.

Q:

What caused you to start the Oblates of Divine Mercy of Jesus Crucified?

A:

The most obvious answer is for me to say that it is “God’s will.” But, at least as I experienced how it started, I would say that it started based on one of the oldest longings people have: “teach us to pray.” My directees and prayer groups always want direction about prayer and what they should they do to grow in intimacy with God. What this group really is is my answer to their questions. I am saying, “this is what I do; this is what works for me.” It is not the answer. It is an answer. It is a “little way.”

Q:

How do you feel about being a “Founder” of a prayer group or movement?

A:

I understand that there is a basis in precise, canonical language for using the word: “founder.” I do not use it and I do not see myself as “founder.” I am the spiritual director of the group. The title “founder” has gravity to it that I prefer not to embrace. I have seen in other groups where this terminology creates an unhealthy attachment to the leader. I am a member of the group. I do not have all the answers nor am I superior to the other members. I have certain responsibilities to the group and its members, but by no means should I be seen as anything other than a brother in Christ to my brothers and sisters.

Q:

What is your vision for the Oblates?

A:

Well, I hope it is the same as God’s vision. As I said, I perceive it as a “little way.” My hope is that people will go to Mass, adore the Blessed Sacrament, go to confession, love the Church, pray the rosary and the chaplet of divine mercy and engage in works of mercy. They may follow this way as individuals or in groups. Many have asked about how to start groups. First, I would say a group is not necessary, but the best way to start a group is to begin to pray and ask your friends to join you. I am not an expert in technology, but I believe that we can be connected with one another throughout the world through the internet. Second, I believe that very soon we will be able to have prayer meetings streamed over the internet and we will be “together” wherever we may be.

Q:

What about fundraising, buying or building property? What do you expect your members to contribute?

A:

I do not want, nor would I accept money from anyone. This group is not about money, buildings, property, or fundraising. So many groups have become sidetracked by these things and often they are the ego need of the leader or members to show how “blessed” or “successful” they are. We are not building an earthly kingdom; our kingdom, or rather Jesus’ Kingdom is in Heaven. The only thing that I want from our members is prayer.

Q:

Some have also asked if they can be member of the Oblates and also belong to other groups, for example Third Order Franciscans?

A:

Anyone can belong to our group that is a member in good standing in the Church and desiring to be a member of our prayer group. There is no reason that one could not be a member of more than one group. We are not in competition with anyone. If what we do helps them grow closer to God they are most welcome to join us.

Q:

Many prayer groups disintegrate over time. How do you envision your group surviving over time?

A:

First of all, if it is God’s Will that our group “disintegrate” then I hope it happens immediately. All any of us should want is for God’s Will to be done. Secondly, I am aware of some of the problems of prayer groups and I have attempted to address them. If and when our group meets it is for prayer. Specifically, it is to pray the rosary and the chaplet in front of the Blessed Sacrament if possible. Prayer time is not the time for people to “show off their gifts”, push an agenda of any kind or become a social/counseling group. It is for prayer and for prayerful reflection and planning of activities of mercy. If people want to gather socially on their own time that is fine, but that is not necessary to our mission.

Q:

Do you have any special dreams for the Oblates?

A:

My dream truly is only that we be pleasing to Jesus and that we be of benefit to souls. But a specific dream I have is that the day might come when somewhere in the world there would always be an Oblate in front of the Blessed Sacrament interceding for mercy, especially for those near death and the holy souls in purgatory. No one should ever die without a brother or a sister somewhere in the world interceding for Divine Mercy on their soul.

Q:

Do you foresee a religious order or community starting?

A:

I would neither anticipate something like that happening nor rule it out. Those kinds of things are the work of the Holy Spirit. If a group wanted to live in such a way I would welcome it with the Church’s permission, but the focus of the Oblates is on lay people, living out their very busy lives while seeking to live holiness of life.

Q:

Is there anything else that you would want the Oblates to know from you?

A:

I would want them to know that even if we have never met face to face that each and every one of them is very precious to me. I love them. I pray for them. I would ask them in their charity and mercy to occasionally remember me in their prayers as well.

* The Oblates have been asking Fr. Clancy to provide a biography for the website. Like most of us he was reluctant to write about himself. This interview, done at our request, is a transcript of an interview conducted by a close collaborator of Fr. Clancy. Since it was conducted orally, it should be read as a conversation, not as an essay. If you have questions that you would want Fr. Clancy to answer in future interviews please contact the webmaster.



by Dr. Radut.