Thursday, December 2, 2021

Fr. Terence Rhoades, OFM, Passes Away

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Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

Fr. Terence Rhoades, OFM, faithfully served as a Franciscan priest for over 75 years. He spent his final retirement years at Villa Guadalupe, the home in Gallup, NM run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Reception of the body and visitation will take place on Friday, July 15, at 9:00 AM at St. Francis Parish in Gallup, NM. The funeral liturgy will follow at 10:00 AM with the Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, Provincial Father of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province as the principal celebrant. Burial will take place at Hillcrest cemetery following the funeral.

In 2010, Fr. John Mittlestadt, OFM, wrote the following reflection after celebrating Fr. Rhoades’s 75th anniversary as a priest:

“I am sure you know by now that I like to write about Franciscans – they are a local endangered species.

On August 6, 2010, a group of us Franciscan friars and sisters, Franciscan partners, youth group, and a few others descended on Casa Guadalupe (the Little Sisters of the Poor) in Gallup. We were eager to celebrate the 94th birthday of Father Terence Rhoades, the oldest priest in the Diocese of Gallup.

We presented him with a singing birthday card to which the young people danced in rock-and-roll fashion. Father Terence enjoyed it so much he began to sing German songs and I joined him. We both had the same German teacher in the seminary in Cincinnati 20 years apart. We had cake and ice cream and were visited by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Perhaps they thought we were making too much noise.

On August 15, we brought Father Terence to his beloved Saint Mary Mission in Tohatchi, New Mexico. We celebrated his 75th anniversary as a Franciscan Friar, a record for our Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe. “There will be no big shots there,” he told me beforehand. Our bishop and provincial wanted to be there, but had to go to Santa Fe to help celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary. I was celebrant and homilist making sure that Father Terry was in the spotlight. Brother Maynard Shurley had some humorous postscripts. The Legion of Mary, which he founded, honored him and sang the Hail Mary in Navajo chant. It was quite a liturgy!

We had a dinner afterwards, catered for the most part by a parishioner, Manuel Carl. We had beautiful and meaningful decorations, featuring a lot of photos of Father Terence through the years. One parishioner, Barbara Badonie, presented him with a necklace featuring the colors of the four sacred mountains of the Navajos. So many people pitched to make this one of the best celebrations we have had in my 21 years at Tohatchi. His two nephews, Peter and Terence Rhoades, from Michigan carried him up the steps of the greenhouse o he could see his beloved project in all its glory of fruits and flowers.

The first time I met Fr. Terence was in the summer of 1949. I was preparing to go to Saint Francis High School Seminary in Cincinnati. He visited our home and saw me carrying in a sack of crawdads, which my friend and I proceeded to clean and cook. We ate them all ourselves. Father Terence to this day complains that I did not give him any.

In 1963, Jet Magazine wrote an article about Captain Edward Dwight, a Catholic African-American astronaut trainee. Capt. Dwight returned to his alma mater, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, to give a commencement speech. Fr. Terence was on hand to meet him and his family.
In 1963, Jet Magazine wrote an article about Captain Edward Dwight, a Catholic African-American astronaut trainee. Capt. Dwight returned to his alma mater, Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, to give a commencement speech. Fr. Terence was on hand to meet him and his family.

Father Terence was a dynamic priest for minority people in the Kansas City area for 32 years. He lived through the desegregation of schools, hospitals, and other institutions.

He was right in the middle of the violence of race riots. He nurtured people and roses, watched and fed the birds, and became one of the best ornithologists in the U.S.A. There were hundreds of converts to his churches among the minorities of the metropolis.

He came to Gallup to serve at the cathedral briefly, then on to Zuni and Tohatchi.

He used to refer to himself as Father Yo-You. But he was loved by the people of both missions. At both places, he did great gardening and helped to plan the present greenhouse at Tohatchi. He was gardening at Tohatchi when he tripped and damaged his leg. He could not live independently. He ended up with the Little Sisters of the Poor, where he has a birdfeeder outside his window.

The great thing about Father Terence is his fidelity – faithful for 75 years to God, the Catholic Church, his Franciscan way of life, and God’s little unimportant people. What an honor it is to have him as a member of our Franciscan Province, our diocese, and our own little community.”

Fr. Terence Rhoades, rest in peace.

Photos from Jet and Ebony magazines.


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