The homily given by Msgr. Joseph Hendricks at the funeral Mass for Msgr. Rodric J. DiPietro on Thursday, Aug. 18, at Hilliard St. Brendan Church:
“The opening prayer for Mass on the evening Father DiPietro’s death was announced to the parish read, ‘God our Father, may we love you in all things and above all things, and reach the joy you have prepared for us beyond all imagining.” It is a fitting prayer for all of us who have hoped in the Lord Jesus to help us overcome the troubles of life, and a plea for us to love the Lord above all else.
“I was reminded of that when I read in the local newspaper, The Dispatch, that Father Rod was a person and priest who was constantly reminding people that ‘God is a God of love’ for all people.
“The church in her liturgy always places before us great mysteries to glory in and great moments of grace to be enlightened by. The mystery of death is perhaps the ultimate moment in which we are challenged to reflect on why it is that we have the courage to believe at all. For over 35 years as a priest, Father Rod DiPietro delved into that mystery on a daily basis. He did it with style and grace.
“One of the things that I heard about him, and later learned from him, was that in his ministry, there never was a person who approached him who received the cold and quick answer. Father Rod became the safe haven and court of last appeal for those who had been turned away from their quest in life because of some procedural error or a deadline not made.
“Often, he would rather say when confronted by a distraught person (too often a bride-to-be), ‘How can I help you fulfill your dreams?’ It is a lesson that I have tried, but sometimes failed to learn as a pastor.
“When Father Rod was first appointed to St. Brendan’s after a successful term as pastor at St.Elizabeth’s, he came to see me over at St. Brigid. At that time, in 2001, he was replacing the legendary Msgr. William Maroon, and was nervous about how to proceed with his leadership and what issues to address first and how direct he should be about pressing his case about parish life.
“I cautioned him to wait and get settled in before he jumped in too deep. I told him it would take him five years to get his administration in place, and to be patient. He had little time for my answer, but tried to heed my advice. Ultimately, he chose the fast track approach, but a gentle fast track, and it served him well.
“Over the years, he would stop in to discuss progress, pastoral care, and strategic planning, but was always holding the answer as he asked the question. My work was easy. But last week on Thursday night, he texted me out of the blue. He said he needed to see me on Friday morning. I agreed to see him. He had a potential financial problem with the parish festival. He was embarrassed to ask for help, but did ask and said to me, ‘If you say “No,” I will still love you anyway.’ I said ‘Yes’ and we got things fixed.
“Later, he told me of his plans to stay at St. Brendan’s as long as possible, and hopefully to be buried from there. We laughed. Never did I think that is exactly what would happen.
“The ancient philosopher Diogenes coined this phrase that has become classic in Christian life: ‘Nihil mortuis nisi bona.’ Loosely translated, it reads: ‘Nothing about the dead except good things.’ There are a lot of good things to be said about Father Rod.
“He was the pastor of many flocks. He loved his alpacas, his chickens, his parrot, and his dog, Yogi. He loved his people and his parish. He relished his time as a hospital chaplain at St. Ann’s and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He relied on his staff and gave them the mentoring and authority to do their work and the ability to grow in the image of Christ.
“In clerical circles, he was admired from a distance. Not given to the usual priestly fraternity, he was always respectful of other priests and their unique ministry.
“The bishop who ordained him a priest, Bishop Edward Herrmann, bore a fondness for him (as he studied in Washington, D.C., the bishop’s home diocese) as he grew into a pastor. He would often say to me as he passed me a note to call him about some procedural issue, ‘Be gentle with him, he is just a bit ex lex (Editor’s note: A Latin phrase meaning “his own man”), and all like that.’
“Rod is one of several priests, active and retired, that we have lost in the Diocese of Columbus over the past six months. The long black line of the clergy in the Diocese of Columbus is the place he called home.
“Like Father Ted Thomas and Msgr. Donald C. Schulz, all had their quirks, ways of doing things, personalities, charisms, and gifts, and served in this deanery as pastors. They utilized their gifts and sometimes, by their decisions, made the long black line sway. Rod showed his love for the Church by jolting the long black line a little now and again to show us a different vision of the way things might be.
“He never broke ranks with the long black line. It was unthinkable to him. Like St. Paul in writing to the Philippians, his wish was that ‘You may be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened in you, to the glory and praise of God.’
“Often, I would run into Father Rod in the Giant Eagle on an early Saturday morning. We were both filling our shopping carts for the week. Father Rod was always preparing for a party with staff or friends, buying food for his home on Indian Lake or some outing. I was always buying cleaning supplies. He chose the better part.
“Three weeks ago, our carts met in the milk aisle at Giant Eagle. We greeted and laughed. I said to him, ‘After 35 years, it has finally come to this, shopping for the vittles. What is to become of us?’
As our readings from the holy Scriptures and our faith in the Lord Jesus and his promises assure, we know the answer to that question for Father Rod DiPietro and all of us. As Jesus said in the Gospel to Martha, ‘Your brother will rise.’
“In the closing moments of the film Lawrence of Arabia, there are pictured two priests standing in St. Paul Cathedral, in the Hall of Saints, gazing on the statue of Lawrence. One says to the other, ‘Nihil mortuis nisi bona (But did he really deserve a place here)?’ Because of the love and mercy of God, and to each one who believed in him, the answer is ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ and ‘Yes.’
“May God give his rest and peace to you, Pastor Bonus.”