by Joe Bollig
EUDORA — Father’s Day will be bittersweet for parishioners at Holy Family Parish here. In addition to celebrating the fathers in their midst, they will celebrate and mourn the absence of their much-loved pastor, Father Patric Riley.
Father Riley, 61, who after a hospital stay was receiving hospice care at his rectory, died peacefully there on June 12 an hour or so before the 9:30 a.m. Mass. With him were his twin sister Peggy Riley, a parishioner, and his faithful dog Abby. Father Riley had a history of cardiac illness, but died of inoperable cancer in the abdominal region.
Mass celebrant Father Barnabas Eichor, OFM Cap., from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, made the announcement just before the dismissal.
“Everyone was incredibly sad at the loss, but happy he was at peace,” said Molly Pratt, parish youth ministry director. “After Mass, a lot of people were just sitting and crying together, but also we were laughing because Father Pat liked to get everyone together, and we were all together when he died.”
Father Riley and his sister Peggy were born on May 27, 1955, in Kansas City, Kansas, to Norbert C. and Marianne (Vellers) Riley. The family belonged to Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.
He felt the call to priesthood early.
“It was his calling since he was in the eighth grade,” said Peggy Riley. “We all supported him. That’s what he wanted to do.”
That call led the future priest to the newly opened archdiocesan minor (high school) seminary, Savior of World, in Kansas City, Kansas. One classmate was Leaven editor Father Mark Goldasich.
“Since I was the only one from my home parish and an only kid to boot, I was more than a little intimidated, meeting all new people,” said Father Goldasich, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie. “He became my first Savior friend. Pat really eased my transition into Savior. He was always that friendly face I could count on.”
Father Riley was quite an athlete, “wiry and fast,” as Father Goldasich remembered.
Another contemporary at Savior and later at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana was Father Ken Kelly, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, Mission. While at St. Meinrad’s, they would go fishing at nearby ponds.
Father Riley was a lot of fun and had a great sense of humor, said Father Kelly. And he loved to get together with his brother priests.
“When we had a priests retreat or continuing education, after that was all done in the evening, he would often instigate a poker game,” said Father Kelly.
Father Riley was a valuable asset on the archdiocesan personnel board, thanks to his organizational skills — no surprise to former Savior teacher and fellow pastor Msgr. Michael Mullen, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Looking back, you could see in Father Pat Riley a determination where he’d set a goal and follow through,” said Msgr. Mullen.
Father Riley’s determination to set and meet goals, and his attention to detail, helped him meet the challenges of building a new church at Holy Family Parish in Eudora.
“He understood how important it was to the parish to build a church,” said Doug Pickert, Holy Family building committee chairman. “He put his heart, soul and emotions into getting the church built. And he paid a health price for it, no doubt about it. He was very courageous.”
The new church was dedicated on Dec. 6, 2015. Over his protests, parishioners named the downstairs the “Father Patric Riley Education Center.”
Even more than the new church, the real legacy of Father Riley will be the children educated in the center, said Pratt.
“He loved the children more than anything,” said Pratt. “His face would light up when he’d see the kids. They’ll miss him the most. He was passionate about the education of the children and made them feel welcome in church.”
Her favorite memory? How Father Riley loved to hold her daughter Lucy, when she was an infant, while he worked at his desk.
Father Riley extended his welcoming and compassionate nature to everyone, said Gary Pratt, parishioner and archdiocesan planned giving officer.
“Father Pat said the best way to build community and friendships was over a meal,” he said. “That’s why he encouraged parish dinners, concerts and soup suppers before Stations of the Cross. He’d invite groups of parishioners over just to get people together for dinner, drinks and conversation. There wasn’t an agenda, just fellowship.”
Father Riley was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his sister Peggy of Warsaw, Missouri. Father Riley donated his body to the University of Kansas for medical research, but there will be a memorial Mass at 10 a.m. on June 25, with seating to begin at 9 a.m. The Mass will be followed by a celebration of life in the parish hall.