His Journey Home: Preparing for Heaven

Jul 12, 2021

Dana Casadei, Development Liaison

Every night before he goes to bed, Father Richard Elmer gets wheeled down by the nurse on duty to the chapel inside the Angela Hospice Care Center.

“I spend 20 minutes to a half-hour, just talking to Jesus, telling him I’m ready, Lord, so, anytime you want to take me, do so,” he said.

Father Elmer arrived at the Care Center after being diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer. He was already familiar with Angela Hospice from visiting a fellow priest years ago. Now,
being in the Care Center, he’s able to experience the care as well, and said while he’s been to a number of hospices, Angela Hospice is far superior.

“When I came here (the Angela Hospice Care Center), I asked people not to pray for my recovery, I asked them to help me get the strength to prepare for the final leg of my journey, and that, of course, is heaven, hopefully,” he said.

Born in 1928 – the same year Catholic Central welcomed its first freshman class – Father Elmer has played a large role both at Catholic Central and Wixom’s St. Catherine of Siena Academy, where he was their first principal and chaplain.

At Catholic Central he was not only a teacher, but their director of athletics, director of guidance, principal, and first president. He was also a student there, where he served as class president and yearbook editor.

“When I was in my early thirties, they needed administrators. The community itself was short on them. I showed some promise there, at least they thought I did, and so they gave me a choice of three different places to go,” he said. “I chose Catholic Central.”

Father Elmer would leave Catholic Central for different career pursuits throughout the years, but he always came back, and he hasn’t left since 1990. His most recent position was President Emeritus.

His journey to becoming a priest is just as unique, much like so many aspects of Father Elmer’s life.

Ordained over 60 years ago on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Father Elmer found himself thinking about becoming a priest in high school after having been taught by the Basilian priests at Catholic Central. He graduated from high school and attended Assumption College, then, one night, made a decision.

“I had a dream of St. Peter, and he said in the dream, I can see it right now, he said, ‘You are to be a priest,’” Father Elmer said. “That kind of sealed the deal.”

While Father Elmer is aware of his legacy with so many former students – there’s even a football stadium on Catholic Central’s campus named after him – he hopes, if his legacy does any good, that it helps people get to heaven. But he does appreciate and is grateful for everything he’s gotten, like the 300 cards that arrived for his last birthday.

Although Father Elmer has worked and lived all over the country, he said the place that’s given him more peace and joy than he could’ve expected was right here at the Care Center.

“It’s such a wonderful place… the care is just unbelievable. I can’t think but that the Lord put me here because there’s no better place,” he said. And Father Elmer is not only aware of how excellent the care is, but also how expensive it can be.

“As a Development Director myself, I know that, if people out there realized just the value of this place and what it does for people getting to heaven, I would encourage them to support Angela Hospice as generously as they can. Amen.”

Honoring Father Elmer

“Father Elmer has touched my life in a very personal way, as he has had a significant impact on my daughter Sam’s faith journey. She was his daily sacristan and helped serve at daily Mass for years by his side. She struggles with her faith, as many of us do at times in life, and Father Elmer is a special person she trusts that continues to bring her back to Jesus and His love for her. He also mentored the Catholic Central football team, which my son, Danny, was a part of for years. He has had a tremendous impact on the faith journey of many young men and women in our Catholic community, and as a mom, I am very thankful for his love and prayers.”
Kelly CampbellAngela Hospice RN Community Liaison
“Father Elmer has really impressed me in the way that even while he’s still in this time of hospice…and kind of discerning why the Lord’s brought him to this point, he’s still taking his vocation to the priesthood very seriously, which is really awesome to me. He celebrates Mass in his room every day, and is so willing to offer Holy Communion to any of the staff that’s Catholic and wants to receive. And he’s always so friendly and approachable with everybody here. It’s just really
cool to see someone at the end of their life still taking what’s most important to them as serious as he does.”
Joshua LaFave Angela Hospice Nurse
“I have been privileged to know Father Elmer for many years. His heart is genuine. His mind is sharp. His faith is so powerful. He makes me feel like all is
right in the world when I am in his presence. And that smile and the twinkle in his eye brings all who know him pure joy. I feel that no matter who you are, what your beliefs are, what situation you are in, Father Elmer respects you no matter what. And, more importantly, prays for you. He is a wonderful man.”
Helen BalmforthAngela Hospice Development & Special Events Manager
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