By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Father Mike Scully has had many a stint of serving people in Ellis County. And as a Catholic priest, he is accustomed to being reassigned and having to say goodbye to those he has grown close to.
This time, he chose not to say goodbye.
This past spring, the Capuchin Province of Mid-America announced the Capuchin-Franciscan friars would be returning the ministerial care of St. Joseph Parish in Hays to the Diocese of Salina. St. Joseph has been serviced by the Capuchins since 1878.
Scully was assigned to begin a vocations program at St. Conrad's friary in Lawrence. So just a year into his work as pastor of St. Joseph, this Capuchin friar is on the road again.
Early this morning, Scully packed his brown Capuchin robes and the rest of his belongings into his Buick and headed the 230-some miles east down Interstate 70 to Lawrence.
In his homily at Sunday's Mass, Scully closed with a favorite of his, an Irish blessing from St. Patrick, to address his parishioners: "May the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
Scully, 72, thought he might be staying in Ellis County for a while after being transferred from St. Fidelis Church in Victoria to St. Joseph just a year ago.
It wasn't to be. The focus of his Sunday homily is how perception is not reality.
Reality for Scully is he is a Roman Catholic priest and one of his vows for the priesthood was obedience.
"Obedience is the most difficult vow a Catholic priest has," said Scully, whose first assignment as a priest in the 1960s was as a teacher at St. Joseph Military Academy. He also has served as pastor at St. Joseph two other times, as well as two different times at St. Fidelis.
Scully particularly wanted to be around for awhile this time in Hays, to see the new Catholic junior high school get off the ground at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School this fall. It was a project near and dear to his heart, one he had a hand in.
"It's hard (to leave a parish)," Scully said. "But you go where they need you."
Most parishioners understand that concept, too.
"I've never known life without Father Mike," said Joyce Rupp, whose parents, George and the late Ethel Gatschet, became good friends with Scully during his first time in Hays as a teacher at TMP and pastor of St. Joseph in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. "Growing up, he would come over to our house in the evening; he's an extension of our family."
"She understands; she knows things change," said Rupp's husband, Kevin, who also has gotten to know Scully well through the years.
Kevin Rupp is the organist for St. Joseph Parish, as well as manager of the parish office.
"He tried to stretch the parish in their spirituality, and he reached a lot of people," Kevin Rupp said. "He did what his vocation called him to do, and that's what he's doing now."
Scully will continue his "Message at the Top" show on KJLS 103.3 FM radio in Hays. So people still will be able to hear that familiar voice on his two-hour Sunday morning show where Scully analyzes top 20 songs and uses them as teaching tools for life lessons.
He also plans to return to Hays from time to time to conduct some adult continuing education programs, as well as administering the St. Joseph parish mission in November.
Parishioners also have promised to stop by to see Scully when they are in eastern Kansas.
"God has a plan," Kevin Rupp said. "We just don't know what it is. (Scully) is such an inspiration to people. He still will be, no matter where he lives."