Bill Carrigan was, by any measure, a remarkable man.
He was remarkable for what you might call the trajectory of his life, starting on farms in Iowa and Minnesota, serving with the Red Cross in World War II, moving to Washington and achieving distinction as a business man and a planner with great vision, remaining active until well into his 90's. Along the way he was known for his tender devotion to Ramona, his wife of 51 years, and for his keen interest in the members of his far-flung family. You know, when a man dies, you expect his children to come to the funeral. But we are surrounded by nephews, nieces, great-nephews, great-nieces -- from Missouri, Colorado, Hawaii. That strikes me as strong evidence of the affection he felt for them - and they for him.
He was remarkable as a Catholic, devout, faithful, a Knight of Malta, decorated by Pope Paul VI. He might well have attended 10,000 Masses in this very church, since he went to early morning Mass every day of his life as long as health permitted. And I mean every morning. I used to live practically across the street, so I could walk to church. I remember some mornings after, or during, a heavy snowfall. I would just be thinking to myself that no 93-year old man is going to get her this morning, when I would notice a familiar vehicle pulling up, and out would step the intrepid Mr. Carrigan. Waht the trip between his hom and the church had been like was one of those things I expect you didn't really want to know.
When you thought of Bill Carrigan, you thought instinctively of Padre Pio, the Italian monk, mystic and stigmatic whom Bill met during World War II and to whom he formed a lifelong attachment. When relatively few Americans had even heard of Padre Pio, Bill was beating the drums for his beatification. He talked to everyone he met about Padre Pio. He wrote letters and newspaper columns, organized Masses in Padre Pio's memory, sponsored books and videos. I was once told that he had distributed over 1 million Padre Pio prayer cards. And Bill had the great joy of being present in St. Peter's Square last year when the Holy Father beatified his friend.
Bill was one of a kind. He was intensely curious about everything -- people, places, events, art. Maybe that's one of the reasons he was a world-class talker. Few people ever had a brief chat with Bill. He had a tremendously varied experience in his long life, and he loved to share it with you. It could be disconcerting when you sat down for a chat with Bill, since he would usually rest his hand on Padre Pio's head -- the head of a statue he kept by his chair. In his later years, when he needed a cane to get around, he named the cane George, and the polite thing to do when you encountered Bill was also to say hello to George, and inquire about his health.
But if I were trying to select one characteristic which was most remarkable of all, I would say it was his absolutely extraordinary generosity. And it showed itself in many unexpected ways.
He was an exceptional philanthropist, supporting hospitals, eye clinics, foreign missions, and innumerable other charitable organizations. He was intensely dedicated to the prolife cause. But I think his greatest joy -- aside from the cause of his beloved Padre Pio - was Catholic schools. He supported many of them, and was instrumental in the founding of Christendom College in Virginia. Not long before his death, he completed a project he had talked about for years, when he contributed valuable real estate to a small Catholic school in Washington, Virginia. A few years ago, when financial pressures threatened the continued existence of Mount deSales Academy near Baltimore, he gave crucial and continuing support to keep the school alive and flourishing. You can see some of the fruits of that generosity in the girls and young women from DeSales Academy who are with us -- some of them singing for us -- this morning. Bill would have loved that. I mean he does love that.
And those are just a handful of what I would call Bill's public charities. As part of my legal work, I was astonished to discover that he had dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of private charities, too. Men and women who were in some sort of need, temporary or permanent. Small gifts and large, loans, whatever it took to help the person to keep going. The Gospel tells us to give to everyone who begs from you. As much as any man I ever knew, Bill Carrigan seems to have done exactly that.
Bill was not a man who limited his generosity to writing a check. He hosted a 4th of July party every year for many years for the entire town of Washington, Virginia, where he maintained a second home.
And he was generous with his time, too. One memory especially dear to me is our late mutual friend Dr. John Kuhn, who died almost four years ago. After John's cancer made it impossible for him to drive, Bill -- who must have been 94 years old at the time -- would stop every day to pick him up and bring him to Mass. Bill always had time for a friend, and most especially a friend who wanted to practice his faith. He was known and loved by doctors, lawyers, Cardinals, schoolchildren, janitors, bank tellers. As someone once said of the Catholic Church, "Here comes everybody!" Bill loved that. He seemed to have time for them all.
He was a man of virtue -- of many virtues, really. Perhaps his final gift to us is the challenge to try to imitate those virtues. May his soul, and the sould of his dear wife Ramona, and all the souls of the faithful departed, in the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.