With a heavy heart I reflect on memories of the most influential man in my life, my Uncle Richie. Known to most as Monsignor Albert, founder of the St. Patrick’s Foundation and the Stella Maris Foundation. Uncle Richie was the patriarch of my family, a devoted man of God. I admired my uncle from the day I was born, hanging on his every word as a child until literally last month when we had our final dinner together. When he mentioned this would be his last trip to NYC, I didn’t think this would be the last time I would see him in the flesh. He was getting older and traveling was getting more difficult but I figured the family would just have to make more trips to Jamaica to visit him. This Thanksgiving, I began to plan the trip with my cousins for spring. My uncle was suffering with the chikungunya virus transmitted from mosquitoes in Jamaica and he passed yesterday after being rushed to the hospital.
Uncle Richie moved to Jamaica over 30 years ago and devoted his life to serving the poor. As a child, I remember trips to Jamaica and visiting the schools he founded, spending time with the nuns and visiting the leprosy houses to sing and dance. He IS the most generous, kind-hearted, devoted, self-less man I have every encountered.
When my mother passed away, I asked my uncle if I could go to Jamaica with him to clear my head and spend time soul-searching. He agreed, and I spent time with him alone at his home in Jamaica while I reflecting on the meaning of life. This was such a critical time in my life and I am so happy to have spent it with him. He invited me into his daily activities, put a bible on my bed, brought me to see the nuns and joked that I could move to Jamaica and live with them. (we had a lot of laughs over this)
He also showed me his most a sacred space, a temple he made with a tin roof, outside of his home on the top of a mountain in Sligoville, Jamaica. In this sacred space, he honored both Christian and Jewish traditions. Every morning he would enter his temple/church and pray that God would use him for his glory.
He taught me how to have my own relationship with Jesus and God, one outside of religion, how to live a life of purpose, how love sees no color, and how important it is to give back to the world. He is a trailblazer, a pioneer, a renegade of sorts. (I say “is” rather than “was” because he WILL always be this)
They called him the “Ghetto Priest.”
In 2006, he drew a spotlight on Christians in Jamaica, when he declared that “the church has lost its guts” by being reluctant to speak out against corruption and injustice in the country. He was fearless even though many gangs were out to take his life, having to leave the country at times, but he continued to stand with integrity for what be believed in.
He was instrumental in creating and facilitating the establishment of many social intervention projects like the St Monica’s Home for the Aged; The St Patrick’s Foundation and the Stella Maris Foundation. He received the Servitor Pacis Award by the Path of Peace Foundation in November 2001.
I want the world and all my friends to know who my beloved uncle IS and how important his life IS to so many. Here are just a few articles/videos of an angel who walked the earth:
60-min covering his life: https://youtu.be/MZt1iti-Q2Y
He is my inspiration and he is a shining example of what is truly important in the world. I will continue to learn from his life and honor his legacy everyday I have left here on earth. I have lost so many that have shaped my life in the natural; but I feel comforted to know that I have an army of angels watching over me.
In your absence, I ask how I can draw closer to God and continue to honor your legacy…
“Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its color.” – W. S. Merwin