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Father John “Gus” Richardson, O.F.M., is surrounded by local Catholic Youth Organization members at his retirement party back in May, 2008, at St. Mary’s Church in Obernburg

Remembering Father Gus

By Kathy Daley
ST PETERSBURG, FL — November 30, 2010 — “It’s almost as if Father Gus died when he heard his friend Father Anthony had gone.”
So reflected Jocelyn Thomas, communications director of the Franciscan Holy Name Province, to which Father John “Gus” Richardson and Father Anthony Moore belonged.
Two days after the death of his longtime friend Anthony Moore, Father Gus, former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Obernburg, passed away on Thanksgiving Day. The 82-year-old was living at the Franciscan Friary in St. Petersburg, FL, when he was admitted to the hospital to remove a kidney stone. He developed an infection of the kidney and lungs, said Thomas. He died at 4 a.m. on Nov. 25.
His friend and longtime colleague Anthony Moore, pastor of St. Anthony Church in Yulan, died last Tuesday after a massive stroke.
The local Catholic community is reeling from the deaths so close to one another.
“There are not too many Franciscans left here now,” said Bette Bisig of Obernburg.
Father Gus retired from the pastorship at St. Mary’s in May of 2008. Another well-loved Franciscan, Father Joseph Juracek, is now pastor.
Bisig said the first thing that struck her about Father Gus was his warm welcome on Sundays. She recalled how he would position himself outside the church as people arrived for Mass, greeting each person.
Bisig also liked how he completed each Mass, with the affirmative “smile, because God loves you very much.”
“I found Father Gus to be a caring person that you could go to with anything at any time,” Bisig said.
Born in Elmira on March 4, 1928 to John and Agatha (Mannix) Richardson, Father Gus attended St. Mary’s Elementary School and Elmira Catholic High School, graduating in 1947. That fall he entered St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon.
He studied philosophy at St. Stephen's Friary in Croghan and St. Anthony's Friary in Butler, NJ, receiving his B.A. from St. Bonaventure University in 1953. He then studied theology at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1956 in the Franciscan Monastery Church in Washington, D.C.
His colorful years as a friar began with a nine-year stint in Brazil, where he served with Father Ignatius Smith, now pastor of Holy Cross Church in Callicoon. The newly-ordained Father Gus learned to speak Portuguese and traveled from town to town sharing the faith with Catholic families.
He later served as chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven, CT, where he earned commendations from the VA and the state of Connecticut. He then was assigned to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston; Church of St. Mary in Providence, RI; St. Francis of Assisi in Manhattan; and St. Anthony Church in Butler, NJ.
Finally, he moved to the Obernburg church, a parish founded by German Catholics in 1854 and overseen by the Holy Name Province for more than 120 years. St. Mary’s is the oldest parish in Sullivan County.
In a 2008 retirement interview in the Province’s newsletter, Father Gus praised the parishioners of St. Mary’s.
“The people were hard workers,” he said. “They were wonderful.”
The wake for Father Gus took place at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg. A Mass of Christian Burial was set for today, Nov. 30, at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Church in St. Petersburg. Burial will be at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Clearwater, FL.
Father Gus is survived by his sister, Sr. Therese Richardson, R.S.M. Condolences may be sent to Sr. Therese at 65 Highland Ave., Rochester, NY 14620.
Memorial contributions can be made to The Franciscan Missionary Union, 135 West 31st St., New York, NY 10001-3403.

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