Many people were introduced to you recently through the photo and story in an AP report about the death of Robert Fuller in May. But I want to start by pulling back a little to allow you to tell us a bit about yourself. What are your full-time responsibilities?
My full-time responsibilities are as a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle studying finance and business economics. I help at St. Therese as a supply priest. That means I’m not even on the staff; I’m not part-time there. I’m just there on an ad hoc basis. On average I’m there once a month. Basically, I come in a little before Mass, I make sure things are set up and then we celebrate Mass together and then after Mass I greet people; I say hello and I go home.
The AP photo and the story have generated a lot of discussion. Can you tell us the story behind this particular photo from your perspective?I’d signed up for that Sunday and I arrived at church and I saw a parishioner there and I asked how he was doing. He said, “Well, this is Bob Fuller’s last Mass,” and I was puzzled and so I asked him what he meant. He said, “Well, Bob is going to die.” I didn’t know much about Mr. Fuller. I knew he was very ill and I thought that meant that his treatment had run out, that he was getting off treatment and that Mr. Fuller knew he had days to live. And I continued my way to the sacristy and I met another couple of parishioners who said likewise, that this was Bob’s last Mass. Through those conversations, I became aware that this man that I knew was very ill would like a blessing. So we talked about doing a blessing at the end of Mass. We had Mass and at the end of Mass we blessed him.
I thought the pastoral situation I was walking into was with this very ill man who knows he’s about to die. I wanted to make sure he felt cared for by the church. It’s only after Mass at the social hour that I learned of his intentions [to kill himself] from a parishioner. I had absolutely no idea what his intentions were before that. The moment I learned about his intentions, I was completely stunned.
There’s much more. Read it all.