For 10 years, at work, we had searched high and low for a priest to provide services for our Catholic kids. Our answer was always the same….shortage of priests….no way can we spare anyone to come out in the country for an hour a week. Then one day Fr Richard came to us via an AA volunteer.
Fr. Richard has a degree in Hispanic Culture studies and a masters degree in Restorative Justice. He is on the board of prison chaplains and various other services to provide education and jobs for prisoners upon release.
He started out at the ranch celebrating mass once a month, then once every two weeks, then weekly. He recruited voluteers from his church to provide other services. One volunteer you see comment periodically (rarely anymore) LONNIE teaches the kids guitar lessons. (I call him the miracle worker because they sound great!)
Fr. Richard is currently working throughout the state to provide mentors for our kids after release to insure support upon arrival to their homes.
He has been nominated for Chaplain Volunteer of the year for the entire state. (Will update you on this after this weekend when we find out the results at the volunteer conference.)
We have critters at the ranch. Two old dogs we have raised from pups, Rancher and Ranger. A blind pony named Cocoa. A Beta fish and an acquarium full of sand crabs. All of these creatures have received a special blessing from Fr. Richard. His picture is frequently in the statewide newsletter, blessing one group of creatures or another.
He has organized ecumentical retreats for the kids during down time from school. He ended one such retreat with mass celebrated by the Bishop. The staff were freaked out, so he did an emergency "Bishop etiquette" training for us.
So tonight we threw a surprise party for him after mass. It is his second anniversary of his ordination into the priesthood. We put together a scrapbook of cards written by the kids, pictures they drew, and pictures taken at their baptism/confirmations. And he WAS surprised.
The hit entertainment of the night was the band playing and all the kids singing "LaBamba"…his favorite song. He thinks the whole crew is ready to go on the road. Of course he is tone deaf and I never let him live it down.
We cooked and fed the entire house Mexican food. Talk about stressful. Me and two kids cooked huge Mexican casseroles, pica de guillo and picante sauce.
Everyone had plenty to eat, everyone had huge fun….
Fr. Richard Martin Collins……. WE LOVE YOU! And of course, he is another one of my adopted kids. 😀
Excuse me now while I go to my corner and have a nervous breakdown.