Tribute to Fr. Gerry Furlan – Missionary for over Sixty Years

A Man of Serenity, Peace and Compassion
In Loving Memory of Fr. Gerard G. Furlan, SX
(May 22, 1931 – December 11, 2013)

Unexpectedly and without warning, our dear Fr. Gerard G. Furlan (Fr. Gerry or Jerry as he was affectionately called) entered Eternal Life to encounter his Lord on Wednesday December 11, 2013 in Worcester (UMass University Hospital). He was 82 years old.

In a small community like ours, the sudden passing away of a confrere leaves behind a void and a sadness which are not easily overcome. In thinking about Fr. Gerry, a couple of phrases from Holy Scripture come to mind:

“He is like a tree planted near streams of running water, that yields its fruit in due season; its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.”(Psalm 1:3)

“Come good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Mt 25:21)

These resound in my heart and summarize quite well, I believe, the life and the missionary work of Fr. Gerry. Fr. Gerry was strong and full of life and energy. Like a tree planed near running water he bloomed where he was planted; wherever mission called him. He was born in Italy, but he came as a student to the USA. After ordination in 1958 he was Treasurer of the Xaverian Franklin WI community from 1958-67 and Vice-Rector 1959-1961. In 1967 he was assigned to Indonesia where he served as teacher and assistant pastor in in Pekambaru and Padang two towns located on the Island of Sumatra. He returned to the United States in 1973 and served as the Treasurer of the Xaverian community of Holliston MA from 1973 – 1980. He was assigned to serve in our mission of Makeni, Sierra Leone, West Africa from 1980 to 2000 where he served as assistant pastor, pastor and educator. In 2000 he returned to Holliston MA where he was once again Treasurer of Xaverian Community from 2005 till 2008.

Recalling all these places and names is an acknowledgment of all the years, dedication, energy and sacrifices Fr. Gerry placed at the service of the Gospel. No matter where, he always sowed the seed of the Word of God through the example of a joyful, serene, generous, compassionate and purpose driven life.  His presence has always struck me as a humble servant of the Lord, a man of serenity, peace and compassion.  Like the Martha of the Gospel he did not like the limelight. He was not looking for appreciation or applause. Simply and humbly he kept on working behind the scenes, with the only consolation coming from knowing that he was doing his part and contributing to the life of the mission and of the Xaverian community.

In his simple, generous and joyful way he touched the lives of many people. This was visible in the number of those who came to his viewings and his Mass of Resurrection and was reflected also in the words of sympathy and the loving embrace extended to his niece and nephews who came from Italy. In the end all those in attendance: Bishop Walter Edyvean (Auxiliary Bishop of Boston,West Region) with the many concelebrants, the religious sisters and brothers, the many friends and benefactors of our Xaverian community, presented with gratitude, our dear Fr. Gerry to the Lord, fully aware that the words of Matthew “Come good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Mt 25:21) were taking on a new, more profound and personal meaning.

Whether here or in the Missions Fr. Gerry has always been a “faithful worker of the Gospel.” Now, that he is no longer among us, we begin to perceive how important and vital for the life of the community was his silent and humble contribution. We will miss his generous availability and faithful presence, his practical skills in the kitchen or in his garden.  We will miss his “Indonesian Hail Mary” at the end of each Fatima Day; we will miss his hot chocolate during the Christmas Lights; we will miss his creative signs for all the League activities.

Wherever he went, wherever mission and obedience called him, he always left behind a unique and special legacy.  His smile was his calling card. His availability was his way of being open to the will of God. His generosity with time and talents was his way of reminding us that all gifts received are to be shared and place at the service of others.

“We miss you but at the same time we are grateful to God for the privilege of having spent many years by your side.  Continue to keep an eye on us and may the example of serenity and joy, dedication and generosity and your great availability continue to live in and through us. May God continue to reward you for all the simple and humble ways which helped us carry on our mission and our ministry here in Holliston. Thank you, Fr. Gerry!”

~Fr. Joe Matteucig SX

 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings good news, announcing peace, bearing good news announcing salvation.” (Isaiah 52:7)

These words from Isaiah always call me to reflect on missionaries. I most often think of them s responding to a call to travel long distances, often far from home. Such a man was our Fr Gerry. We know of his journey to foreign lands and back to the United States. We at Bethany are filled with gratitude that he did, because of the wonderful ways he brought peace, good news and salvation to us.  He did not travel over mountains to get from Holliston to Framingham, but once here he traveled mountains worth of stairs: daily entering the building, stepping to and from the altar; and innumerable walks along the long corridors, to and from residents’ rooms; always to bring peace to them through prayers, reconciliation and anointing. Fr. Gerry came to the chapel an hour before Mass so he would be available to give the sacraments to anyone in need. On days when there were no requests for his early morning services he would sit in the vestry praying the rosary for the sisters’ intentions. During Lent and Advent he made individual visits to every resident to offer the sacraments to them or give them a blessing. He left them with peace and joy and the assurance that they were loved especially by God. Fr. Gerry was an extraordinary missionary to each of us. He was a tireless worker of the gospel. Through his words and actions he taught us the primacy of God in our lives. Fr. Gerry reminds me of our patron, St. Joseph and of the virtues we acknowledge in his life:

J: Just and Joyous O: Obedient and Obliging S: Servant E: Energetic and Educator
P: Patient and Prayerful H: Holy and Happy
Many languages use the letter “f” instead of “ph” in Joseph’s name, so I will include
F: Faithful

He was a priest gentle in words, kind in ministry dedicated to that which he professed as a member of your family.  Thank you, God. Thank you Xaverian Missionaries for the gift of Fr. Gerry. He was a wonderful presence, always carrying a wonderful message. He won the hearts of all here at Bethany. He was so faithful to us. He will be sorely missed but will be remembered with gratitude and joy by the many people who knew him.
 ~The Sisters of St. Joseph at Bethany – Framingham, MA

He was such a vital and strong person.  I admired his strength, fortitude and his lovely quiet manner.  He will be greatly missed.  We never know, from one moment to the next, when we will be called home.  But it is fitting that Jesus called him home while he was doing what he loved and on the grounds that he loved so much.  A very dedicated priest and I know he will have the “best garden in heaven”!

It is hard to believe that Fr. Gerry is gone and so sad! God always has a plan. Residents and staff at Bethany have been stunned and sorrowful upon hearing the news today.  We had special prayers at Mass.

May God Bless him and keep him close.  I am sure Saint Guido Conforti was there to greet him. May God grant him eternal rest in the place prepared for him.
~friends and benefactors

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