Thursday, October 26, 2023


By Tim Rohr

Fr. Seamus O'Flynn. 

Could there ever be a more Irish or Catholic name than "Fr. Seamus O'Flynn?"

Fortunately, for me, and my then-small family, in 1986, there was not. 

Fr. Seamus literally kept me, my young wife, and my then-one year old son, from starving.

If memory serves me, I first met Fr. Seamus on a hot Florida day in August 1986. 

Fr. Seamus was then serving as the administrator of a Catholic high school in St. Augustine, Florida: St. Joseph's Academy. 

I had been hired to teach music at St. Joseph's, not by Fr. Seamus - who was the Administrator, but by the school's principal, whose name I choose not to share for this story. 

Sometime in August of 1986, my wife and I and our young son arrived in St. Augustine after a 3000 mile trip across the states in a 1972 Datsun pickup with a camper shell on the back and a bunch of camping stuff. 

In fact, at the time I first met with Fr. Seamus, my wife, son, and I were "camping out" in a nearby St. Augustine campground - cuz we had no place else to go. And just in case you've never had to camp out in August in Florida - just know it is heat and mosquito hell. 

But we had no choice. 

We were clean out of money and could only afford the $10 a night campground and hoped that the $2 chicken we had bought at the local Publix (grocery story) would keep us alive until my first paycheck. 

Ah, youth...when you don't think you are going to die!

Fortunately - and I don't remember how - I ended up in Fr. Seamus' office for an interview a few days after our landing in St. Augustine. 

I don't know if he liked me or I liked him, but we hit it off immediately. And while I didn't intend to tell him of my financial hardship, one way or another it came out. 

Fr. Seamus took out a $50 from his pocket and handed it to me. Given that I had spent my last $2 on what was left of a chicken at Publix, $50 was a veritable gift from Heaven. What's more, Fr. Seamus saw to it that I got an advance on my first paycheck which allowed us to move into a small apartment - even if we did not have the extra to turn on the power.

(As a BTW, our "small apartment" had to be about 10 miles from town given that "the town" was then still seriously racially segregated - another story.)

With whatever was left, I bought a roll of screen and nailed it over the front and back doors. We were living next to "the woods," and if you know what "the woods" are in Florida in August, you know it's not nice: lots of bugs and critters that crave human flesh. 

I had a phenomenal year at St. Joseph's Academy in St. Augustine, Florida (1986-1987). I was the band teacher, the religion teacher, and the drama teacher with a very successful production of the musical Godspell. And today, some of those same students - and fellow teachers - are still my friends. 

However, sometime in the Spring of 1987, I received a letter from a friend who was a teacher in Guam inviting me to teach at a school named St. John's. 

At the time, I was still sad about leaving the Virgin Islands where I had taught for four years before moving on to St. Augustine. So I said "yes!" I'll do it. 

I still remember the exact scenario when Fr. Seamus learned of my decision to leave St. Joseph's and move to Guam. He came to see me. He said: 

"I would ask you if there is anything I can do to make you stay here with us but I am sensing that your call to Guam is a call from God, so I won't intervene."

Our first years in Guam were their own "hell" - a story I may tell another day, but Guam became our home. 

And 11 kids, and, as of today, 37 years later, I and two of my sons are still here...and probably will be till the end. 

Thank you Fr. Seamus. I am quite sure you are a saint. Please pray for me. 

1 comment:

  1. KATHRYN JACKSON BOLTONOctober 26, 2023 at 11:42 PM

    That year was magical for me. And after all these years, I too am grateful to have met you and consider you a friend.