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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

275: Hank Mattimore: "No person stands taller than the one who stoops to help a child"

275: December 16th 2020: Hank Mattimore remembered: "No person stands taller than the one who stoops to help a child"

Today we celebrate the life of Hank Mattimore who lived a life of passionate commitment from a very early age...

What can we say about Hank?

Hank loved.

Hank loved his family, his children and grandchildren,

Hank loved his friends

Hank loved people. All people.

Hank loved being Grandpa Hank to so many vulnerable children he stooped to help.

Hank also loved to write:

Hank Mattimore wrote The Priest Who Couldn't Cheat, a memoir of his early life as a Catholic priest. Excerpts from the book:

"Joining as I did just after my 18th birthday, I was one of the 'older' semenarians. In those days, the Church believed in starting their seminarians early, a practice that has pretty well disappeared. Kids, 13 or 14 years of age, some of whom still had the voices of boy sopranos, were embarking on a life that would lead them to the priesthood and a life of celibacy. MAMA MIA! What was the Church thinking?" (Pg. 55)

"If a student was seen walking the grounds with one particular person frequently, he was likely to be pulled aside and reminded of the 'never two, always three rule.'" (Pg. 74)

"One of the many ironies of the situation was that, thanks to the Church's emphasis on sins of the flesh, most of what we heard in the confessional was sexual in nature, the very 'sins' we were least equipped by life experience to handle. I can't begin to tell you how many confessions I heard from teenage boys who would come to confession with either 'I touched myself impurely,' or some variation on the same theme. We were a church obsessed with sex. Just ask any priest who listened to confessions in the sixties or early seventies." (Pg. 83)

Hank left the priesthood after a stint in Japan and in a poor Black parish in Florida.

"So that was that. Nine years of preparation for the priesthood and ten years as a priest. Nineteen years of my life... Whoosh! All gone.

Not 'Is there anything I can do for you, Father?' or 'What are your plans, Father?' or even 'I will pray for you, Father.' Not even a handshake. Bishop McLaughlin should write a book on conducting exit interviews." (Pg. 117)

Hank became a columnist for The Daily Republic Newspaper in Northern California for over twenty years and spent most of his life in the human services. He was married with two children and two grandchildren of his own plus the twenty-four additional "grandkids" from the Children's Village (closed in 2015).

(Bishop McLaughlin)

Hank likes to sum up his life in the words of an old Black friend of his, “Life is a growin thing. Ya grows or ya dies.” Hank has done a lot of “growin,” from his childhood days as the youngest of 5 kids born and raised in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood in South Buffalo, his seminary years and eventual ordination to the priesthood.

His six years as a missionary priest in Japan opened his eyes to a culture and a people far different than he had ever experienced. His “growin time” continued when, still a priest, he volunteered as the white pastor of a mission church to a predominantly Black ghetto area in Florida. He loved the work and learned a new respect for the Black community but after three years, he found the celibate life of a priest too difficult to bear.

"How often," he wrote, "looking back on life, we strive for some kind of closure by saying “When all is said and done.” The trouble is, that day never comes in this life. That’s why Karl Rahner calls our time on earth “an unfinished symphony.”

"At first glance, that seems a little disconcerting. I want there to be a time when I can write in large letters “THE END” to my story. I can’t get my limited brain around the idea of a world or a life without end."

"We will never get ultimate closure because my story and everyone’s story doesn’t end with death. Our stories continue through our children and families and all those who have been touched by our lives. We may not know the name of our great great-grandmother but your DNA, your history, was affected by her presence on earth."

"My own Christian beliefs take it one giant step further. Not only does our influence affect generations to come, We continue to exist. Our bodies start to decompose at death, but our souls do not die."

"What our existence will look like, I don’t know Lord, but I do like surprises. Meanwhile, You’re my friend and I know we are more than pen pals. I trust you Lord when you promised “Eye has not seen; ears have not heard the things you have prepared for those who love you.”

As Hank was dying he wrote to all of us:

"I reluctantly have to close my juvenile justice page because of terminal illness. We take children from dysfunctional families and place them in equally dysfunctional foster care and group homes. Many states also allow children to be tried as adults and placed in adult prisons. The system is a disaster. Please continue to support our foster youth, our youth of color, our poor kids of any color. We owe it to them. They are our hope for the future. No person stands taller than the one who stoops to help a kid."

We miss you Hank! And you live... because love never dies.

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