This morning I had the honor to attend the Funeral of Fr. John Blackall. Fr. Blackall was ordained in 1951 and was sent to St. Thomas Church in Waterbury CT. He quickly noticed that there was a growing Hispanic community in Waterbury and in his parish and committed himself to learning Spanish. In 1957 he was sent to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, a Church home to one of our Children's Rosary groups today. Fr. Blackall celebrated the first Spanish Mass in Waterbury on September 29th 1957. Shortly after this he was transferred to St. Cecilia's Parish where he resided for over 40 years. His nephew today shared that Fr. Blackall came from a prominent family yet he chose to empty himself and live simply and spend his life serving the poor of his community. Fr. Blackall came from a family blessed by many priests. During his youth his father who was an important lawyer and politician would leave his office each day at noon to visit the Church and pray the Stations of the Cross. This love of the Stations of the Cross was beautifully passed on to Fr. Blackall.
During the years I knew him in his retirement in West Hartford, he frequently attended daily Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hartford where I would see him. Either before or after Mass he would be seen quietly saying the Stations of the Cross. Fr. Blackall also had a strong devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary. He was so kind to the Children's Rosary and even read over the Children's Rosary book before it was published providing wonderful feedback.
On the day of his passing, his nephew shared with us that the family gathered at his home. After he had passed they together brought him out of the house. It was a dry day with a few clouds and diffuse light. All of a sudden Fr. Blackall's little grandniece who is 4 pointed to the sky and said rainbow. All looked up and were amazed to see a rainbow spread over them. Now Stephen, Fr. Blackall's nephew, shared that during his years in Catholic high school he was taught you need two things for a rainbow: rain and bright sun. If both are present look to the opposite side of the sky as the sun and you often will see a rainbow. However, on this day there was no rain and the sun was somewhat blocked by clouds yet there was a rainbow over Fr. Blackall's house. It was then that Stephen realized there is another circumstance when a rainbow can be seen...when the Lord calls home a faithful servant and shows him the Kingdom.
Thank you Fr. Blackall for being a shepherd who so beautifully lead us in love. May you continue to be a wonderful source of blessings and guidance for the Children's Rosary as you did while living here with us. Amen.