Wednesday, January 13, 2016



On Tuesday morning I departed Augusta at about 8:45 AM to drive to Savannah for the funeral of our former bishop, Bishop Raymond W. Lessard who died at 85 years old at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida where he had taught since retiring from our diocese in 1995.

Bishop Lessard was very good to me. In 1985 he named me the Associate Pastor, as we were called then, of the Cathedral and Diocesan Master of Ceremonies and Director of Liturgy. He 1986 he also named me the Diocesan Director of Vocations in which I remained until 1998!  In 1991 he gave me a plum of a first pastorate at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Augusta where I stayed until 2004.
A few words about Bishop Lessard after the description of my Extraordinary Form of an accident.

As I got on the main street of Estill, SC about 50 miles from Savannah, a pickup truck pulled in front of me. I kept my distance but knew I would need to pass him eventually. As we approached a side street coming to our street perpendicularly, I noticed a Hurst and two funeral limousines approaching our street. They had the stop sign. I was trying to determine if it was an actual funeral procession or not since funeral processions have the right away and cops down here will ticket people who don't stop even when coming the opposite direction!

I determined it wasn't an actual funeral procession as there was no police escort which is common in the south and normally if there is no escort the lead car has a flashing light on its roof and everyone else has their flashing lights on. No flashing lights whatsoever, so I was relieved that I didn't have to stop for the procession and let it get in front of me and delay my arrival in Savannah.

Unfortunately, the driver of the pick up truck in front of me thought it was a funeral procession and came to a sudden complete stop in front of me completely catching me off guard. I slammed on my breaks, realized I wouldn't stop until I hit him as I was skidding and tried to steer into the oncoming lane to avoid hitting him, and almost made it by "this much!" The front passenger side of the car got the brunt of the impact at a relatively slow speed. I actually skidded into the bumper of the pick-up truck, rupturing the radiator and coolant came spewing out creating some steam as the hood crumpled toward me in slow motion. No air bags deployed, oddly enough.

However, the car did not die and I was able to back off of the bumper of the pickup truck and pull my car off the road and later drive it across the street to an automotive repair station.

However, State Farm said it could be a total loss and on early inspection the repair place in Macon said it might well be totaled. He'll let me know in a couple of days. I hope not. I hate the looks of the new Maurano as it is too flashy and sporty looking compared to my 2012 which I love! 


However, as justice would have it, I was not ticketed by the South Carolina Highway Patrol as the local sheriff's department couldn't investigate since it involved one of their own. The deputy did not turn on his blue light which would have been seen by me in the back window of the cab but located inside. There was no sign that this was a sheriff's department vehicle.

He should not have stopped for the three funeral home cars as it was not a funeral procession and he abruptly stopped in front of me for no apparent reason other than to be a nice southerner. I think he thought it was a funeral procession but it wasn't.

So neither of us got a ticket--it was deemed an unavoidable accident.

However Estill is out in the middle of nowhere. God's grace allowed the accident to take place across the street from an auto repair shop and my insurance allowed them to tow my car to Macon for repair, a full 3 hours away. The tow truck drove me to Hardeeville, SC to get a rental which my insurance company will cover until the end of January, a nice Malibu.

Needless to say, I missed the funeral for my former bishop and I was suppose to be a pallbearer too. Thank God for cell phones as I was able to inform those who need to know, in particular my current bishop.

Now for Bishop Lessard. He was a bishop of simplicity in the 1970's positive since. He knew the high dignity of his office and wore the choir regalia when prescribed. But otherwise, he wore simple vestments for Mass. When I was his MC he had only on Miter and eventually I talked him into a new one as it began to develop an unsightly sweat stain!  He lived in the Cathedral Rectory not choosing to live in a neighborhood home some distance from the pastoral center as his predecessors had done.

He was a great administrator and relied on structures and subsidiarity. He developed the presbyterial council and a Diocesan Pastoral Council which had two lay representatives from each deanery in the diocese.

He was an intellectual and eventually served as the chairman of the USCCB's Doctrine Committee.

He was a great teacher and allowed me a great deal of flexibility to return the liturgies of the Cathedral to high church rather than low blah! He wasn't entirely convinced about my doing this at first as some in the diocese, priests and laity, thought it was too pre-Vatican II. But he realized that what I was doing needed to be done to regain the dignity of the reformed Mass as the Books demand.

He did put a thumb on some of my more liberal tendencies liturgically and otherwise and it was what I needed as a part of my own on-going priestly formation after a very liberal seminary training in the 1970's. He was a great teacher and great mentor for me.

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen

Requiescat in Pace!


Stephen Conner said...

Thank you, Lord, for protecting our priest, our shepherd, Father McDonald. I am really sorry that you were involved in an accident...period. I was wondering why I did not see you in any of the pictures from the funeral. Figured you would have been a major part of the late Bishop's funeral due to your close priestly service under him. Thank God you were not injured! I know you were shaken up! Prayers from Stephen and Beverly Conner and family!

James said...

Glad you're OK, Father! It sounds like the deputy sheriff was a traditionalist when it comes to funeral processions, hankering after arbitrary and outmoded practices, while you stuck precisely to the red and the black of the (1970s) South Carolina legal code. Quite right too.

Anonymous said...

Fr McDonald, your Guardian Angel certainly protected you. It must have been very disappointing to miss the funeral, but maybe you were protected from an even more serious accident further on on your journey because you certainly were prevented from traveling on further and being in a hurry sometimes accidents happen. Deo gratias for your extraordinary escape from what could have been a much more serious accident by the looks of your car! I will remember your bishop in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

"He did put a thumb on some of my more liberal tendencies liturgically and otherwise", mm-hmm, I think there may be a few tendencies still lurking beneath, but I am sure the Extraordinary Form will curtail those and no doubt your good bishop will keep an eye on you from above and you may still feel that thumb from time to time!

George said...

No accident is ever good but at least you were not injured-or the other person for that matter. It is better having to repair or replace your vehicle than ending up in the hospital.
Thanks be to God that things were not worse.

Anonymous said...

You might consider next time taking the 4 lane south of Augusta (Hwy 25) to Statesboro, then get on 16 east to Savannah. Longer distance, but two-lane roads have more serious dangers than the four-lanes. Thankfully not hurt!

On a related note (the Lessard funeral), one of the retired bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia (which covers southern Georgia below the Macon and Columbus areas and goes north to Augusta), Harry W. Shipps, wrote a nice column about the late bishop, which can viewed at the Diocese of Georgia website (Georgia Bishop Shipps served during the second half (roughly) of the Lessard Era in Savannah. Both bishops worked on promoting ecumenism in the area. Bishop Shipps, approaching age 90, wrote in his column that the two bishops kept up with each other even after their respective retirements and distance apart.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD, with all due respect, where I come from, when you rear end another vehicle, it is ALWAYS your fault, no exceptions. The idea is that you are always to be in control of your vehicle, and not follow so near and at such a speed that you cannot stop.

Glad you didn't get a ticket. Did your Roman collar perhaps influence their estimation of your culpability? Hmmm. :-)

Glad no one was injured. Easy to see how this kind of thing could happen.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

True enough about the rear end collision. A couple of extenuating circumstances and this is an odd case:

The accident report by the South Carolina Highway Patrol marks a box that I contributed to the accident but the the sheriff's deputy's unmarked pick-up truck that I struck.

There were two law enforcement agencies involved, the local one which I struck and because of that his fellow sheriff deputy could not investigate the scene, so the South Carolina Highway Patrol was called in (State Police). I doubt that two law enforcement agencies would give me a pass simply because I was a priest.

The funeral procession was not a funeral procession but just a Hurst and two limousines being moved to another location. The sheriff's deputy should not have stopped abruptly in the middle of the road for them as they were about to stop at the stop sign themselves. But yes, I was looking at them wondering if I should stop and realized there were no people in the limousine, no escort and no flashing lights and they didn't have their lamps on. I was distracted.

The sheriff deputy since he was in an unmarked car that had lights in the inside window of the cab (not on the truck)did not use his lights at all--he should have.

But you are right, he was not cited as contributing to the accident in the report.