Towards the last days of his earthly life, before passing away on Thursday at the age of 91, Ted Stone was growing in frailty. Yet, with his determination and strength of spirit, he last gifted us with his presence at L'Arche on Christmas eve, when he joined us as we celebrated the incarnation of God as a frail child.
We were already aware, well before then, that the aging of Ted was bringing about changes in his body. About a year ago, Ted had been hospitalized because of a heart issue. When I spoke to him then, I remember how sharp his consciousness was and how steadfast his spirit remained. While he was aware of his health issues, he mentioned praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayers of the Church, even in his sickness. In the midst of his cross, similarly to Jesus, he prayed and remained close to the Father, vulnerable enough to ask for the supports he needed.
Even through the health effects of aging, Ted seemed to walk on earth as a "man on a mission" would. A soft-spoken and humble man, his posture, his walk, his glances and his attentiveness seemed to be directed to something - or better, Someone - much larger than himself. Ted seemed to be in this world, yet not of it.
His life was eventful - he was in Japan for some time, he served as director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, he founded the Loyola Institute of Pastoral Studies, and so on - but it's not merely the list of accomplishments that is impressive, but the spirit that he embodied. Ted was a father.
Ted lived fatherhood in various ways: both as a priest and as a father of two. Ted, in fact, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1952 and was active in his priestly ministry as Father Ted. He left the active priesthood in 1969, after which he married. He fathered Tim, a beloved core member of our L'Arche community, and Bethanne, a precious friend of our community. After his wife's death, Ted wanted to return to the active priesthood. This return was a seven year process, with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then archbishop of Chicago, advocating for him in Rome so that he could get reinstated. Ted became an associate pastor at Mary Seat of Wisdom in 1992 and it is there that his funeral was celebrated yesterday.
During a L'Arche Chicago retreat some years ago, we invited Ted to preside at the retreat's Sunday Mass, in a similar way with which we invited him to bless our Friendship House at its inauguration. Throughout the liturgy, Tim was the altar server. I still have the image in my mind of Ted in his priestly vestments consecrating the bread and the wine, with Tim joining and supporting him right by his side. We hope that Ted - father Ted - will remain close to us, intercede for us and smile upon us.