A century of life and a religious "sacrifice" of 74 years was celebrated at the Church of the Ascension last Friday morning.
That day, Reverend Richard E. Raney turned 100 years old during a special mass in his honor. It featured a visit from many members of the Catholic Church's esteemed clergy including Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane, the Bishop of Venice in Florida.
Rev. Raney, a retired priest from the Diocese of Peoria, was ordained as a priest on June 5, 1938, and has served as Chaplain of the Monastery of San Damiano for the Poor Clare Nuns celebrating Mass daily at the Beach church since 1988. After Mass, participants joined in Church Hall for a luncheon, a town government proclamation reading (his second of the day) and a view of Rev. Raney blowing out the candles of his birthday cake.
Father Raney blows the candles out on his birthday cake. He turned 100 years old Friday.
"Father, it is God's gift of you to us some 100 years ago that brings us here today for this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," said Most Rev. Dewane, the main celebrant at the 100th Birthday Mass. "Sometimes they say the phrase, 'Only the good die young.' That is not the case here."
Father Raney was born in Peoria, Ill. on Oct. 19, 1912. He graduated valedictorian of his high school class and was first assigned as assistant pastor and, later, athletic director at Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington, Ill. During World War II, he added football, basketball and track coach to his duties.
"Father is the superb example of how you must keep on doing what the Lord has called us to do," said Most Rev. Dewane. "He has dedicated most of his life to the Holy Eucharist."
In 2010, Father Raney was affiliated into the First order of Franciscan Friars Minor of Holy Name Province in honor of his long service.
Although he did not speak during Mass, he received a boisterous reaction and ovation when he offered a few words at the after-Mass reception before blowing out the candles of his cake.
"Don't pray for me to be any older. Old age is terminal, and I've got a lot of it," he quipped.
After receiving a proclamation during Mass, Father Raney listened to Beach Mayor Bob Raymond recite the verses of another proclamation, this one from the Town of Fort Myers Beach. Raymond extended the celebratory priest a witty, heart-felt wish afterwards.
"A would also like to wish that your second 100 years is as good as the first one," he said.
Father Raney's nephew, Bill Mueller, also offered a few words of kindness and spoke about his uncle's move to the Beach 32 years ago.
"When Uncle Dick moved to Fort Myers Beach in 1980, our family up north hated to see him leave the area, but we were all happy he was going to enjoy his retirement in a place where he could golf and fish all year long," he said. "Little did we know at the time that our family was going to grow because of all the friends that Uncle Dick made here on the island. All who have helped our uncle live as independently as possible over the years have both his gratitude and the gratitude of all his relatives."
Mueller referenced Father Raney's paternal leaderships and athletic prowess. He mentioned his uncle's only hole-in-one in golf on a fairly recent occasion.
"His homilies over the years have offered pearls of wisdom," said Muller. "Even in retirement, he has taught us that being of service to others is more important than trips or games of golf, except maybe that hole-in-one he shot at age 92. We're all blessed to be with him to celebrate this wonderful day."