As he has done consistently and brilliantly every other week for the past 30 years, Bob was to have written a column for this week’s issue of Our Sunday Visitor. As it turns out, however, his final column appeared in the March 3 issue, in which he was reflecting on a recent hospital stay. His final two paragraphs say so much about his character, and even about his suffering during his final weeks of life.
He wrote: “Jesus said to the crowds: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light’ (Mt 11:28-30).
“Have a blessed Lent. Live those traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for the whole season. And we will meet in joy at Easter morning.”
How beautiful and fitting that those were his final published words.
But Bob wasn’t just a columnist for OSV. Longtime readers know that he served as editor of this newspaper, then editor-in-chief, then president and publisher of OSV Publishing. After leaving OSV, he went on to serve as director of communications for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and general manager of the Pittsburgh Catholic diocesan newspaper from 2001 to 2014. He moved back to Indiana in retirement and continued to do what he loved best — write about the Catholic Church.
Bob was professional, he was positive, he was a team player, he was a storyteller. And, boy, was he a Catholic. Bob was the consummate OSV columnist not just because he was a talented writer, but because he could evoke so well the essence of growing up living and breathing the Faith in a way that just … was. Because what else would you do? He had a way of bringing the reader back to a time gone by while still remaining relevant today. That is not easy.
As editor of this newspaper for the past six years, I have received much correspondence telling me how a topic or a turn of phrase that Bob used touched or inspired their hearts. I know he treasured all of your comments, yet he never dwelled on himself. In fact, the day after returning home following one of his recent hospital stays, he wrote me a note of encouragement and support, knowing I was going through a challenging time. And he was the one who had just been discharged! That’s just who Bob was, though. Kind, thoughtful, encouraging, faith-filled. A friend and mentor until the end.
Please pray for Bob, his wife, Cindy, and their family during this difficult time. And may the good Lord he loved so much grant him eternal rest.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.