A last wish fulfilled

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St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton was decorated for Christmas with poinsettias, trees and wreaths that filled the altar and the sanctuary just two days after the celebration of the birth of Christ. It was a fitting backdrop for the ordination of Father Richard Dyer by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde - a Christmas present for his dying father, Richard.

Because of his father's illness, Father Dyer was ordained early at his home parish. He asked the bishop to consider an early ordination so his father could attend. The bishop, in turn, offered this possibility to Father Dyer, and he accepted.

"The bishop (performed) an incredible act of charity," said Father Dyer.

"It's unique to move up the ordination date to accommodate an illness," said Father Brian Bashista, diocesan director of vocations.

For the past six months, Father Dyer served as a transitional deacon at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria, on his way to ordination to the priesthood in June with his fellow deacons, Keith D. Cummings and Thomas M. Yehl. His father's illness changed everything.

Father Bashista said that usually a transitional deacon stays at a parish for a year before being ordained. In this case there were six more months to serve, but he said he's received nothing but glowing reports about Father Dyer from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. It's been a long journey for the 48-year-old who found his vocation later than most men.

He attended the University of Notre Dame majoring in electrical engineering. He also was enrolled in Air Force ROTC at Notre Dame. After graduating in 1985, he was commissioned into the Air Force.

After fulfilling his military obligation, he worked for several years as a defense contractor, returning to Notre Dame in 1991to earn a master's in business.

In 1993, he returned to Virginia and found a job at a power plant, eventually being promoted to vice president - and making a lot of money - before answering a call to the priesthood.

His decision to become a priest later in life was not easy and filled him with trepidation.

"Throughout seminary I had been afraid," said Father Dyer of his time at Mount St. Mary's. "(But) I knew I was called."

His computer screensaver is a quote from St. John the Apostle, "Perfect love drives out fear."

"I was certain He was calling me," he said.

Father Dyer's family and friends gathered at St. Andrew on the feast of St. John the Apostle to watch the seminarian be ordained a diocesan priest. His father sat in a wheelchair next to his son during the ceremony. Father and son sharing a special moment as son became Father in the ancient ceremony of the Catholic Church.

"I'm very happy," said Bishop Loverde on the ordination of Father Dyer. "We wish you every blessing."

Although he is a priest, he must now finish his studies at Mount St. Mary Seminary.

Father Dyer celebrated his first Mass the following day on the feast of the Holy Innocents, a day that he found especially poignant because of his strong pro-life sentiments.

His father was unable to attend his son's first Mass because of his illness. He passed away less than 24 hours after watching his son enter the priesthood of Christ.

(Read the obituary of Richard Eugene Dyer Sr. here.)

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012