Saturday, July 14, 2012

In Memorium - Brother Richard Jonathan Cardarelli, SSF

This morning I went to a memorial service at Holy Trinity Church in Middletown, Connecticut for Brother Richard Jonathan, of the Society of Saint Francis, an Episcopal Religious Order based on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.  When I first met Richard he was Father Richard Cardarelli, Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin and a chaplain for Dignity/Hartford.  That was in 1984.  To me he will always be Father Richard.  He was 60 years old. (see obit)  (and Hartford Courant article)
Hector, Me, Richard, Robin, ??, Joe, Barb
1987  March on Washington and Protest at Supreme Court
Richard Jonathan Cardarelli may not be a national religious figure but I am remembering him here for anyone who knew him or for those of you who might have known him had your path crossed his.

I learned more about Richard from today's eulogies.  He was drawn to the Church, to the priesthood and to the Franciscans from a young age and entered the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin after graduating from college.  Richard took his ministry seriously, but that's not to say he was without a sense of humor.  Those who knew him best recall sharing much laughter together with him.

Richard was arrested more than once for non-violent demonstrations, championing causes such as anti-nuclear proliferation, Civil Rights, and protesting the Supreme Court decision upholding Georgia's sodomy laws in Bowers v. Hardwick.

Richard was gay.  He was an out, gay, celibate Franciscan priest and friar.  His Dignity flock knew it, his Franciscan brothers knew it, the Archbishop knew it.    His special ministry to the LGBT community was dear to his heart and he was vociferous in his ministry.  

Richard was very intelligent and an inspired preacher. His sermons at Sunday Mass at Dignity were always affirming of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender persons and when preaching on the gospel and readings he always found therein evidence of God's all inclusive love.  But expressing God's unconditional love for his Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people eventually put him at odds with the Archbishop and official Catholic teachings.

I don't know all the details that led up to his excommunication from the Catholic Church but I do know that that was the most devastating event in his life and began a period of great anguish for him. He began drinking heavily to ease his overwhelming depression.  After receiving treatment for his addiction he remained sober and began secular social work with psychiatric patients - but even his work there was always done in the spirit of St. Francis.

His personal spiritual journey took him to several independent, non-Roman, Catholic churches and other Ecumenical Churches.  He ultimately found a loving home in the Society of Saint Francis, an Episcopal religious order where he was professed and where his priestly orders were recognized.  He was with the Society of St. Francis for the past 10 years and served in San Francisco and Long Island where he was the director of vocations.

I am glad he found a loving home with his Episcopal Franciscan brothers but I am so ashamed of the Roman Catholic Church for cutting him off like some infected limb from what they believe to be the body of Christ, the Church.

Todays services included all the candles, incense, robes, bells, hymns, organ music and even Gregorian chant that he would have loved.  Of course, he had planned the whole service before he passed away.

I owe my personal coming out to the existence of Dignity/Hartford and to a great extent to Father Richard Jonathan Cardarelli whose support was vital.  Father Richard, may you be with your loving God.


  1. A life of service, well lived. I'm glad he was able to end his days in a supportive community; but how sad to have been "the stone the builders rejected." So unnecessary, you know? May he rest in peace.

  2. Thanks for introducing us to him. So glad he was there for you and so many others... and that he was able to overcome his terrible treatment and still live the life he believed in. We need more like him.

  3. He sounds like he was a wonderful man and what a travesty (again) that the Catholic Church could not see the forest for the trees.

  4. fr tom orians, SAJuly 24, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    What a true franciscan he was and what an inspiration he was in my own franciscan vocation. He was always there for us and I am sure will continue to be there for us as he takes up residence in the heavenly kingom where discrimination is nowhere to be found.

  5. Rev. Mickey DanylukJuly 30, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    Dear Frank-- what a loving tribute-- to describe how Richard touched your life and ours and how he made our world a better place! I miss those DIGNITY days, and yet-- look where we are today!! Thank You, Frank for remembering and expressing what we "Everything Richard" day of recollection on October 06, 2012 in Windsor Locks. I hope you and so many others will come, remember, celebrate.



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