Unconditional commitment to workers, labor unions goals
By ED FINKELSTEIN
To a standing ovation, “Labor's Priest” Father Richard Creason, 75, – often with tears in his eyes – humbly accepted the praise of a thankful community as his retirement from 50 years of pastoral duties was recognized with a special Mass Sept. 11 at his parish of 21 years, Most Holy Trinity Church in north St. Louis.
“I’ve learned a lot… from all of you,” Father Rich (as he’s affectionately known by his parishioners) said at the end of the Mass, “the Labor Movement has inspired me. Enjoy life to its fullest, you will inspire each other.” He warmly thanked the union members and leaders at the Mass, attended by several hundred parishioners, friends, unionists and admirers.
In true Father Creason fashion, he asked for prayers for those who lost their lives 15 years ago on Sept. 11 in New York. The Mass was on the anniversary of the downing of the Twin Towers in New York by terrorists.
He also praised the changes in the Church doctrine and practices that came out of the Second Vatican Council (held in the early ‘60s to address relations between the Catholic Church and the modern world) “particularly the growing role of women. This is a great blessing,” he said.
To commemorate the event, on behalf of the Labor Movement, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis presented Father Creason with $2,600, money donated by union members, leaders and labor unions to be used in his retirement as he sees fit.
“You've always been there to help us, and the Lord knows there are those of us that occasionally get lost along the way,” Louis said to laughter. “You have been a blessing to us all.”
No matter what the event or need in the Labor Movement, Father Creason was always there, helping, counseling. He was never too tired, committed elsewhere or busy when asked to help.
“After the death of Msg. John Shocklee, Father Creason stepped up to become the biggest Labor advocate in the Catholic faith. I called on him in every instance where we needed help,” said Bob Kelley, president emeritus of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council. “He tirelessly stood up, and spoke out, for workers and the minority community, for their earning a just wage and being treated fairly.”
Msg. Shocklee, executive secretary of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Commission on Human Rights, died in 2003 at the age of 85. He was a Roman Catholic priest for 60 years and a staunch defender and pro-active priest supportive of workers, minorities and the Labor Movement.
“Father Creason exemplifies… the ongoing struggle of Labor, human rights and equality,” said retired Msg. Nicholas Schneider who conducted the Mass.
Father Creason’s support of unions comes naturally. He grew up in a union household. His father was a 25-year Teamster dairy driver. One of his two older brothers was a union furniture finisher.
His other brother went into the priesthood. Coming from a religious family, at the age of 26, he decided the priesthood was right for him as well.
Since then, he has served at six parishes, coming to Holy Trinity in 1999, and serving there ever since.
In recognition of that faithful service, the church’s sisterhood named him “Pastor Emeritus” presenting him a framed plaque proclaiming his new role.
Father Creason has moved to the St. Agnes Home, an assisted living facility in Kirkwood founded by the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus.