Remembering Father Dick

Maevis Fahey '21, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the December Print Edition of the Looking Glass. Here, you will find the extended version of that piece, which includes many more stories and quotes from the Montrose community. To share your memories and reflections on our beloved chaplain, please visit our school website.

Last Tuesday, Montrose was blessed with something special to start the Christmas season — a snow day. Our Father Dick always prayed for snow days, so it felt especially memorable to receive one the day after his passing. In the past two weeks, the entire Montrose community has come together to celebrate our dear Father Dick. Alumnae, friends, and family of our school honored his life at his funeral services last weekend. As Montrosians sang Non Nobis — one of Father Dick’s favorite hymns —  together at his wake last Friday, we all felt his presence in a new light — watching over all of us from Heaven.

No words can explain how much Montrose loved our founding chaplain, Father Dick Rieman. Stories, memories, jokes, and reflections have poured out in his memory from friends and family of Montrose. Father Dick’s 40 years at Montrose impacted every person who has been a part of our school since he helped found it in 1979. As Founder and parent as well as grandparent of several alumnae, Mr. Bill Bowman shared on Saturday: “In the early days, Father Dick used to come out and ‘criticize’ our work — ‘You’re going to want to straighten that out,’ or, ‘I think this could use some help!’ — he always came to make us all laugh. He never changed in that way after 40 years.” 

Montrosians of all ages understand how much Father Dick loved each and every one of us. At about 8 AM on last Monday, December 2, he passed away peacefully at the age of 94. Montrosians gathered in the chapel and Founders Hall for an all-school Mass where we heard the news. After Mass, Head of School Dr. Bohlin shared: “Whether you’ve been at Montrose for a long time, or if this is your first year here, Father Dick loved this school and its students with all of his heart. And he used to pray for all of you, too. Mrs. Elrod and I visited him a few weeks ago and had him bless a list of names of all of the students at Montrose. Even if you didn’t get to meet him this year, he was praying for all of us.”

Last Friday, three buses took Montrosians to Father Dick’s wake at Saint Mary of the Assumption Church in Dedham. Together, we took up the entire left side of the church. The next day was his funeral Mass, and the whole church was packed to the brim; hundreds of family and friends came to celebrate Father Dick’s life and all he did for the world in his 94 years. The homily made everyone laugh, and made us remember how much Father Dick valued humor in a special way — like how he used to say “Holy Christmas!” Montrose came up numerous times in Monsignor Bohlin’s (Dr. Bohlin’s older brother) homily, reminding us of how much our school meant to him during his 40 years of service here.

Following his burial at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery in West Roxbury, the Montrose community gathered in our A&A Building for a reception. The atmosphere was filled with stories and laughter about Father Dick. As our former Editor-in-Chief Monica Stack ‘15 said: “It’s amazing to see how many people he’s brought together this weekend. Father Dick’s spirit lives on through so many.” A number of alumnae also shared their special memories of him, including Molly Cahill ‘16, who also sang at his funeral Mass. “When I was in seventh grade, I was so nervous about everything in my life, and I went to confession with Father Dick,” she said. Molly talked about how she listed off countless mishaps from her week at the confession, and then Father Dick asked her how she would be getting home after school. Molly said that her mother would be driving her home — so Father Dick told her to go with her mom to get ice cream as her penance! Throughout her time at Montrose, Molly grew closer to Father Dick. Five years later, she visited Father Dick again for another reason. “I told him, ‘I’m hearing back from my top choice college today, and if I don’t get in, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself, so I really need you to pray for me.’” Father Dick smiled at her, and said, “You’re the ice cream girl, aren’t you?” He remembered Molly after all of those years, and retold the same advice — to go to Bubbling Brook after school and buy herself an ice cream to relax. Molly followed his word and ended up getting into her top choice; she is now a senior at Boston College.

Montrosians remember confessions with Father Dick fondly. He was well-loved for his cheery attitude and for wanting everyone to be a part of Christ’s love and forgiveness for us. As Alanna Hyatt ‘22 said: “I remember during chapel periods that there was always a line for confession with Father Dick, even if there was no one in the confessional with Father John or Father Jeff. Nothing against them — but Father Dick was everyone’s favorite!”

Besides his time in the chapel serving mass, Father Dick was always a friend to every student in the school. He cared about each and every student individually, and always told us that we were “the bee’s knees!” As one alumna, Ceili McLaughlin ‘13, recalled: “Father Dick was the first to sign my cast one time! I had broken my foot, and when I walked into school, Father Dick saw me. He made me sit down on the bench so he could sign my cast.” Ceili’s sister, Brenna ‘15, shared another lovable story about our chaplain: “One time, Father Dick let us ‘kidnap’ him for a movie we were making for a class.We brought him all around the school and to some of the shops around town. We even filmed him tied up in his chair! He was such a good sport about it, and I’ll always remember that.”

When he wasn’t signing casts and starring in Montrosian movies, Father Dick gave spiritual support to countless others outside of our student body. Many other members of the Montrose community have talked about the profound effects of Father Dick’s confessions. He never failed to retain a casual yet incredibly loving composure. At his reception last Saturday, Mrs. Helen MacKay said: “The last time I saw Father Dick was at a morning recollection. He told me to ‘Come jump in the box!’” 

Father Dick is also remembered for marrying many couples in the Montrose community. In typical Father Dick fashion, he never stressed about weddings or other events like this — he only hoped for everyone around him to be happy. Mr. Tim Casey, father of Colleen Casey ‘22, shared a touching story on Saturday. He said: “Thirty-five years ago, Father Dick was our priest for our wedding. On the day of the wedding, my father broke his elbow, just hours before he was supposed to get Father Dick from the train station. Of course, Father Dick had no idea where he was supposed to go, but it all got sorted out. I always remember what he told me about weddings — ‘No matter what happens, remember this: look at the bride and groom, and if they’re smiling, then everything worked out just fine.’”

Sue and Joe Niro shared another beautiful story about confessions with Father Dick. Mr. Niro said: “At the 1984 Home Opener for the Red Sox, my wife introduced me to Father Dick… He gave me a confession right there in Kenmore Square in his black Buick. It was absolutely transformative. He gave me a rosary blessed by two popes, which will be a relic.” This summarizes an inspiring trait that Father Dick exemplified throughout his life: grace. No matter where he went, Father Dick wanted Jesus to accompany him. Even at the Home Opener in 1984 for his favorite sports team, Father Dick knew how to press pause and offer this grace for all of those around him. As Mr. and Mrs. Niro said: “Father Dick was a true saint — so cheerful and sweet. The Bible tells us to be like children in our faith, and that’s exactly what he did, he was so childlike.”

Our chaplain was one of the biggest Red Sox fans you could ever meet. When the team triumphantly championed the 2018 World Series, Father Dick served mass the next day with Father John, donning the biggest smile on the planet. When he wasn’t wearing his red and white Montrose jacket, he could often be seen wearing his Red Sox jacket. Mr. Tom Keeley recalls: “Father Dick would always call me after the Red Sox lost a game, and would ask, ‘What the ‘heck’ was that game?’ He really did love the Sox.”

Of course, sports played a significant role in Father Dick’s life at Montrose. He attended countless sports games at Miracle Field, which was named in his honor. Steph Ciampa ‘20, a member of the Varsity Soccer Team that won the championship again this year, said: “My favorite memory of Father Dick was when he would come out to our soccer games and bless us before every home game and then watched the game and supported us from the sidelines.” Additionally, Varsity Soccer Co-Captain Devyn Gianino ‘20 shared: “Father Dick was one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met. His fist bumps, jokes, Skittles and homilies would always make my day. Any time I was having a bad day and Father Dick was giving mass, I knew that it would be turned around real quick. His sweet words and funny jokes always brought a smile to everyone’s face as well as his own. Father Dick was truly a blessing to this world and touched everyone around him.”

Mr. John Berti, father of Justine Berti ‘03, explained that Father Dick has been Montrose’s biggest cheerleader for generations, and that his presence will live on here. He said: “Father Dick has a special way of being with people all the time. I drive through here a lot, and just a couple of weeks ago, Father Dick was on my mind — I said, ‘I wonder how he is doing, I haven’t seen him in a while.’ God put that thought in my mind. I used to stop at Miracle Field to see Montrose sports games, and Father Dick would always be there, but I hadn’t seen him there in some time. Father Dick was in Heaven, talking to us this week.”

Father Dick had a great love for sports throughout his lifetime, and considered professional aspirations in baseball. Mr. John Keefe, husband of International Student Coordinator Mrs. Keefe, and father as well as grandfather to several Montrosians, said: “I met Father Dick when I was 15 years old — and I’m 71 now! When I was 18 years old, I couldn’t get a single hit in any games. Then, one day, Father Dick took me aside. He showed my how to hold the bat with my hands just right and swing nice and level.” As he was speaking, Mr. Keefe gripped an imaginary bat and swung it smoothly in the air to demonstrate. Then, he said: “The next day, I played in a game with Father Dick’s advice in my head. I got two hits, a single, a double, a triple, and a homerun!”

Besides being an impressive baseball player, Father Dick was also skilled in numerous other sports. He was an avid skier, too — as Mr. Maurice LaMarque said: “When I was six, I started skiing with Father Dick. He taught my kids how to ski, too. He always came over for dinner on Sundays for the longest time. He even came to our family’s Thanksgiving for ten straight years. Whenever we went skiing with him, you could hear him laughing all the way down the mountain.”

Father Dick’s laughter held a special place in all of our hearts. He helped start countless traditions at Montrose, and always shared a funny joke at the end of his Friday homilies. Kate Novack ‘24 said: “I remember telling a joke to Father Dick: ‘There was a little tomato and a big tomato and they were walking and the big tomato squished the small tomato and said…. ketchup!’ Father Dick always said, ‘That’s a good one.’ His spirit was always so joyful in everything he did.”

Father Dick was also a participant in Montrose’s school-wide Secret Santa every December. Alanna Hyatt ‘22 said: “Father Dick was my Secret Santa in 8th grade, and one of the gifts he got me was A Child’s Book of Prayers.” He was also known for giving all of the sixth graders at Montrose an angel each year, so that they would always remember that they have their guardian angel by their side. Mr. Schickel shared on Saturday: “When our daughter, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with cancer, we rushed her to the emergency room at Boston Children’s. We found out that she had a brain tumor. When we were at the emergency room, Father Joe came to see us. He brought Elizabeth an angel from Father Dick, who wanted to tell her to remember her guardian angel.”

From snow day prayers, to special ice cream penances, to bowls of Skittles, to offering a “pow” to any passerby, Father Dick changed Montrose for the better in more ways than we can count. His spirit will live on through these traditions for years to come. Every time we give peace with a fist bump during mass, or receive a snow day this winter, we can think of Father Dick and all the joy he brought to Montrose. 

As Montrosians loaded into buses last Friday to go to Father Dick’s wake, it began to snow. The snow continued to fall throughout the wake, and late into the evening. None were surprised — we knew that Father Dick wanted to send us a message that he is with us. Father Dick left a beautiful and profound mark on the world, and his presence is far from fading. Montrose can be certain that there are many blessings in store for us in the future because he will never stop cheering us on from the sidelines.