Father Richard Creason, 79, lovingly and respectfully known as Labor’s Priest, was called to Heaven on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. He had been suffering from congestive heart failure and other health issues. Despite his failing health, even as late as several weeks ago, he was visiting Labor events with his usual bright smile and warm “hello.”
Pastor Emeritus of Most Holy Trinity in St. Louis’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Fr. Creason was a self-described disciple of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and devoted much of his ministry speaking out for working people, defending the right to organize and striving to bridge divisions for those suffering from poverty and racial prejudice in the city’s distressed areas.
In a 2015 letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as the battle over so-called “right-to-work” was heating up in the Missouri Legislature, Fr. Creason wrote that the right to organize Labor unions was guaranteed.
“The current debate over the ‘right-to-work’ is one that has been long resolved,” Fr. Creason wrote. The 1948 United Nations Declaration on Human Rights guaranteed to all people the right to work. At the same time, it equally guaranteed the right to organize Labor unions.
“Consequently the state of Missouri does not need a right-to-work statute because it has already been defined by the United Nations. The right to organize Labor unions truly guarantees the right of all people to get and keep a decent job with a fair wage and benefits that help sustain a stronger family life.”
Fr. Creason was one of the founders of Metropolitan Congregations United, an interfaith group of some 35 churches and religious organizations that has fought for various causes and social justice issues. In 2019, he received the John Paull XXIII Award from the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP), an association that he also helped found.
“There was no stronger advocate in the St Louis Catholic Community for working men and women than Rich,” Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council wrote in a remembrance of Fr. Creason. “Since taking this job I’ve leaned heavily on him to guide me through the waters of the religious community and how Labor fits there.”
For years, Fr. Creason presided over the St. Louis Labor Council’s annual Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass at the Shrine of St. Joseph always offering a hard-hitting, pro-labor homily.
“Our union family lost a great leader and spiritual advisor,” Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO wrote on the Federation’s Facebook page. Fr Creason was a great friend of Organized Labor. He was a tireless fighter for working families and was on the front lines of so many important fights like equal pay, fair unemployment benefits, safe workplaces, opposing “right-to-work,” raising the minimum wage to a living wage, and so many more. His leadership and friendship will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace, Father.”
Due to the COVID-19 social distancing imperative, a celebration of Fr. Creason’s life will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 3519 North 14th Street, St. Louis, MO 63107.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: A more detailed, personal remembrance of Fr. Creason, his background and his commitment to us all and especially to union families written by his good friend and colleague Fr. Gerry Kleba, retired pastor, St. Cronan Church, will appear in the monthly Faith/Labor column on May 7.)