They say, “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and sings it back to you when you forget how it goes.”
Dennis was the kind of friend who made you feel great in good times - every day in fact - just being with him - with his keen interest
in you - that great sense of humor - his calming presence - his spirit of “pitching in” and “going beyond” what was being asked - and
his exuberant hope.
And he made you feel better in difficult moments. Many would confide in him, as he would confide in you.
In so many ways he came to know the song in our hearts and sung it back to us when we had forgotten how to sing.
So, thanks, everyone, for coming to Christ the King today. Thanks for coming and singing that same song of friendship to Dennis’
wonderful family, sitting here in front of me - and to his extended family - every other person here - for we were all his family.
I’d be a wealthy man if I had a dime for every person Dennis told me over the years:
“I’m very close to her”
“He’s one of my best friends”
“What a terrific person she is / he is”
“We go way back”
Always the colorful storyteller he’d go on and tell a story as to why he felt so good about someone.
It’s an honor to welcome our visiting priests who served with Dennis over the years…Donato Infante, Dennis Gallagher, Walter Riley,
Ed Chalmers, Pat Hawthorne, Mike DiGeronimo, Mike Broderick, Tom Egan, John Foley and Tim Brewer.
Father Reidy would certainly have been here but he is celebrating another funeral at this same hour.
Then there’s Father Paul O’Connell who was pastor here from the early 1980s to the early 90s. And Paul…there are many people
here who think the best thing you ever did was give Dennis to Christ the King. And Dennis used to tell the story. When Dennis was
to come over to be interviewed for the job he was instructed that the meeting would take place in the “Bridge Room.”
For those of you not familiar with us, our church was built first and the rectory a few years later and the buildings were connected by
a bridge, called the “bridge room.” Dennis thought this was where the priests played Bridge. “Boy, those priests don’t have much to
do over there…all they do is play Bridge.”
And, he thought, “If I don’t play Bridge do I lose the job?”
In the six-and-a-half years I’ve been here Dennis and I have probably worked together on 250 funerals - some large some small.
At one time he played for a lot of funerals for Frank Scollen over at St. John’s. Frank is here as well. And there was one time they
were doing what we priests call a “pauper funeral” - you know, a funeral for a poor man. Not one single person came to the funeral!
It was just Dennis and Frank. So, Dennis didn’t know what to do and he asked Frank and Frank said, “Play everything!” Dennis
used to tell me that story a lot before small funerals and then he’d roar laughing.
And when he told stories like these he was speaking with adulation about Frank - so often pointing out the goodness of someone
Of course, no one liked Dennis’ stories more than Dennis…and no one laughed harder than he did when he told them…
Well, Dennis, we’re certainly going to “play everything today” - Right, choir?
Together we priests, our parish staff, Dennis’ choral colleagues, parishioners, and all these friends offer our condolences to you:
Elizabeth, Andrea, Dennis, Nicky, Kristen, Shon
All your children
Linda, Jack, Denise
And Dennis’ nephews, nieces…
Thanks to all for coming to honor and pray for this good friend.
A week ago, when it was clear how very sick Dennis had become, I went to UMass to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of
the Sick to him one final time. I had already done that in Portland on the first day of this sad story.
As you know, we priests celebrate this Sacrament under many circumstances - for those conscious or unconscious. In this case
neither his family nor I were sure if he was aware of what was happening. He was mostly in a deep sleep.
I was astounded and grateful, however, when each time the prayers called for a response he said, “Amen.” The prayers stirred him.
They roused him. The faith was in him - deeply imbedded.
And when the prayers were finished - to my surprise and that of his family - he slowly raised his left hand and reached for mine.
He reached out to grasp my hand with his…reached out to “touch”…as he had “touched” all of us in so many ways these many
And I began to think about those powerful hands.
Those hands which had so gracefully arced a basketball through many a net at Power Memorial and Assumption College…
Those hands that touched piano and organ and keyboard so confidently they dazzled us and lifted our spirits…
Those hands that so carefully cradled his children at birth and then in the years ahead provided warmth and protection…and later
for his grandchildren…
Those hands with which he prepared sumptuous family meals having just played at several Masses in succession.
After all our Christmas Masses I’d ask Dennis what he was going to do next. And he said, “I’m going home to cook.” And he loved it. I
could barely stand up and he was going home to cook. The energy!
Those hands that had reached out and touched so many thousands with a firm handshake - students of public schools - youth choir
members - adult colleagues - for decades - in friendship…
Those hands which had lavished numerous unseen gifts on others - quietly - often anonymously - in the background - in the spirit of
today’s Gospel - where Jesus tells us “when you give gifts do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your
giving may be secret.”
I suspect Dennis’ family heard many a story from people last night about what he had done for them personally - stories likely to
remain a secret to the rest of us forever.
Well, he touched my hand, as if to say “I’m here” - and to say, “Thanks.”
It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
There are two reasons for a funeral Mass. Both are important.
First, we pray for our loved one who has passed. We pray for Dennis this morning.
A man of faith, he would have wanted your prayers. Any person of faith would want your prayers. He would know - good as he was -
that he needed them.
So, thanks for coming to pray for him - to commend his soul to the mercy of God.
And the Mass is always a reminder of God’s mercy. For what we celebrate, principally, is that just as Christ died, and passed
through death, and into the fullness of life, so too shall we pass through death and enter eternal life.
Our prayer is that when his eyes closed for the final time Saturday night they opened anew - in another world - to behold the God
who loved him so much - and that God took Dennis’ hands into His own.
The second purpose of a funeral Mass is to pray for ourselves - that we will be comforted and consoled - because we all know how
hard it is when we lose someone we’ve loved so much. Our pain is a monument to the way we’ve loved him.
And in times like these - when a community joins together like this - we can get strong again - we will get strong again.
So, let’s continue to pray for one another and support one another.
In saying that I want to underscore that what will also help each one of us is remembering all the ways we loved and helped him over
those years we knew him - and especially those prayers we’ve all offered for him in recent weeks.
Let’s not forget how good we were to him. That will help us.
The Book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is an appointed time for everything - we give birth and we die - we laugh and we
weep - we dance and we mourn - all seasons are part of the fabric of life.
All the while - in all seasons - God is with us - always there, giving us hope.
St. Paul writes that we both live and die for the Lord. Christ died and has become Lord of both the living and the dead. And Dennis
is now singing - singing his praise of God with a whole new choir - even as we wish he were still part of ours.
Though death hurts - and separation is real - and grief for a time remains - let us not forget that Dennis made us better people.
Let’s not forget the laughs, the kindness and the song. We’re all better for having known him.
Believe with all your hearts that Dennis enjoys a peace, of which we can only dream. But what we are promised is that we will see
him again, in Paradise, with Jesus.
Mass for Dennis C. Ferrante, January 26th, 2018
Homily by Monsignor Sullivan