In Remembrance
AFFIRMING AN INCLUSIVE PRIESTHOOD, ROOTED IN A REFORMED AND RENEWED CHURCH

Killion, Matt

New York, New York

A friend for life and death
By DICK RYAN

It still seems like yesterday when, almost 60 years ago, Matt  Killion and I grew up together on Manhattans West Side, served as altar  boys together and even went to the seminary at Dunwoodie. Along the way, Matt  taught me to drive his fathers old Ford, showed me a thing or two about  the niceties of poker (something that drove old Fr. George Murphy wild when we  played with others on the stoop across from the rectory) and taught me so much,  without even trying, about what it was we were both somehow seeking.

I left the seminary and we went our separate ways without ever really  losing touch. Within a year, I met Pat and, two years later, Matt performed the  wedding ceremony and eventually baptized four of our children.

In those first years of his priesthood, he served as prison chaplain at  the Eastern Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Being chaplain  wasnt quite enough for Matt, so he set out to build a chapel on the grounds of the prison and eventually raised enough money by collecting trading  stamps! When St. Jude Within the Walls Chapel was dedicated 40 years ago,  Cardinal Francis Spellman named Matt the youngest monsignor in the  archdiocese.

It was during that time that Matt reached out to me and my wife and,  without sermon or fluff, tried to tell us about faith and hope and love when  our fourth child died the day after he was born.

Matt left the priesthood in 1969, eventually got married and went  through a series of chapters in his life that included hospital administration,  law school, volunteer work in Thailand, board membership at Notre Dame High  School in Manhattan, the thankless chores of a New York Legal Aid attorney and finally a law professorship at John Jay College.

We stayed in touch through it all. Matt married Pat McDonough and they  adopted two Vietnamese children. One of them, Mark, is today a firefighter down  South while Justine is a highly decorated New York City detective. We still met  regularly as part of an old tradition at the St. Patricks Day Parade and we have always laughed together about all those old days in grammar school when  life was so pure and simple and old Fr. Murphy couldnt tolerate a  straight flush.

And then the cancer came in both lungs for Matt about a year ago, and  there were days in the hospital when he couldnt stand and could barely  breathe. I saw him a few times in the hospital and saw him for the last time in  October at Justines wedding. It was just a month later when the doctors  operated on me for pancreatic cancer, discovered they could do nothing about  something inoperable that had seeped into the lungs and told me that  chemotherapy was the last, the only, alternative.

The first to call, of course, was my old friend, Matt, who hinted at  what to expect and urged me to stay in touch. In the weeks that followed, just  before he died, a man who could hardly breathe and couldnt stand up  without pain, Matt called me several more times. It was like having his arm  around my shoulder.

On the day of his funeral, there were a dozen priests concelebrating the  Mass, several former priests in the crowded church and a churchful of family,  friends and high school students, all there to mourn a wonderful husband and  father, an extraordinary priest and a beautiful person. And right up to the day  he died, this great old friend who had taught me to drive a car and play poker  and who spoke wordlessly to me and my wife about life and death and hope was  reaching out one last time to teach me how to die.

May he rest in peace forever.

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