In the summer of 2000, I heard a bishop preaching at the University of Notre Dame call John Paul II “a moral giant.” That phrase stuck with me and I thought about it this week at the news of the death of my friend and mentor Father Theodore Tack, OSA. In the Catholic world and especially in the Tulsa educational community, Fr. Tack was a giant. Born and raised in Tulsa, he graduated from Cascia Hall in 1944 and went on to be ordained for the Augustinian order. After many years of service, he was elected Superior General of the order and later served as Headmaster at Cascia Hall from 1991-1997.
Personally, I am deeply ingratiated to Fr. Tack for encouraging me to be a priest and to stay in the Diocese of Tulsa. In the Spring of 2001, I met him as we worked on a team together for a KAIROS retreat. He asked me if I had ever considered the priesthood and gave some great advice which led to more frequent meetings between us. That spring, Father Tack initiated an invitation for me to move in with the Augustinian community at Cascia Hall to further discern a call to the priesthood.
I moved in with the Augustinians in August of 2001 all the while keeping my teaching and coaching position at Bishop Kelley. I was with the Augustinians through 9/11/01, the death of a student, Father Tack’s lung cancer, vandalism on the campus, the tragic death of an alumnus, and the declining health of Father Henry Speilman, OSA. In all of this tragedy, I saw a group of men who loved the Lord and were deeply committed to one another and to the students they served. This inspired me and I entered the seminary the next fall and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Tulsa five years after that.
For all of this, I have Father Tack to thank for his witness, fidelity, good advice, and mostly his prayers. Rest in Peace dear friend and giant of the Tulsa educational community. The prayers of the Bishop Kelley Community are with you.