Supporting Vocations

Photo: Felix Carroll

Bishop Elliot Thomas ordained Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC, to the Holy Priesthood in 2010.

Marian Vir Aggregatus Receives His Eternal Reward

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By Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC

On Feb. 28, 2019, Bishop Elliot Thomas, vir aggregatus (associate member) of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M., and retired bishop of the U.S. Virgin Islands, passed on to eternal life.

The funeral Mass was held at the Stella Maris Nursing Home in Timonium, Maryland, where Bishop Elliot had resided for the last few months of his life.

In his homily, Fr. Al Bradley, C.Ss.R., a Redemptorist priest who worked as vicar for Bishop Elliot in the Virgin Islands, shared some touching stories that revealed the bishop's holiness and humanity.

One such story he related was that one time, driving to a meeting, the bishop brought with him a paper bag and insisted on stopping at someone's house. When he arrived, he went to the door. An elderly, homebound woman greeted him, and he gave her the bag. It was her prescription medication. Prior to entering the seminary, Bishop Elliot had worked as a pharmacist. Years later, even with his busy schedule as a bishop, he still managed to help this poor member of his flock by bringing her medication.

His humanity also shone through in his ministry. Father Al shared the story that, following a hurricane that destroyed the bishop's residence, Bishop Elliot climbed through the rubble, reached into the kitchen cabinet and pulled out a bottle of spirits, uncapped for special occasions. He held it up victoriously, proclaiming, "God knows I deserved this."

Father Al concluded his homily, leading us to imagine Bishop Elliot in his eternal reward, concluding, "God knows he deserves it."

For many years, Bishop Elliot, who was a vir aggregatus, an internal coworker of our Congregation, spent the summer months at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy and regularly heard Confessions.

It was during that time that a young man named David Wells visited the Shrine and went to Confession. Bishop Elliot asked him if he had ever thought about becoming a priest. He hadn't at that time, but the thought stayed with him and eventually bore fruit. He eventually answered God's call and entered the seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Early in my time as a Marian, probably during my novitiate in 2005-2006, I too encountered Bishop Elliot in the Confessional. He gave me a prayer card with a prayer for the souls in Purgatory by St. Gertrude. I was impressed by his dedication to the holy souls.

When it came time for my ordination, my provincial superior at the time, Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, recommended asking Bishop Elliot to ordain me, especially in light of his status as a vir aggregatus of our Congregation. He accepted the invitation and planned to journey from the Virgin Islands to the continental states in July 2010 to celebrate my ordination.

In God's providence, another seminarian was also on track for his ordination and asked the bishop to be present for his ordination: David Wells. Conveniently, Fr. David was ordained three weeks before me, so Bishop Elliot was able to combine both events in his trip.

What I remember particularly about Bishop Elliot on the day of my ordination is that he was moving more slowly than when I had first met him. In fact, he seemed quite weak. However, when he spoke, his voice had a strength and vitality that was almost shocking, so contrary was it to the weakness the rest of his body seemed to communicate.

May the soul of Bishop Elliot, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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