Fr. Joe


Our friend Fr. Joe Callahan passed from this life on Easter morning. He was the spiritual director of our retreat house, and had held that position for almost twenty years, affecting the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people who lived cursillo and other retreats at the house.

When I heard the news, I did burst into tears, but I’m less sad for me than for the people who will never cross paths with Fr. Joe. I’m sad today for the people who never knew him, who never heard his stories, who won’t experience his quiet, peaceful presence. I’m sad if you don’t know about the hot dogs, or the grandmotherly grandfather, the marble cake, or the white flag. I’m sad if you never heard him sing, or heard him teach you to sing properly, with an arc to your breath and meaning in your words. I’m sad if you never shared a table with him in a chapel or a dining room, sad if you never saw the twinkle in his eye when he saw you come into the room, sad if he never called you by name and made you feel your presence was the very thing that made him the most happy he could be.

I’m sad if you never heard his homilies and reflections, sad if you were never challenged by him, sad if you never saw his real relationship with Jesus in action. I’m sad if you never heard his complete transparency with tears streaming down your own face at the gift of humility and grace he shared. I’m sad if you never heard him giggle with his whole body. I’m sad if you didn’t experience a sacrament with him, if you never waited in line for hours to go to reconciliation with him, sad if you never saw Jesus looking back at you through his kind eyes.

If you were lucky enough to know Fr. Joe, you knew his great love and joy and his spirit of surrender. Maybe you looked up last night at that Easter sunset, saw the colors, and sang him one chorus of De Colores while you heard his sweet baritone ringing in your ears. Maybe you imagined what that homecoming looked like for him, this faithful servant who made the Face of God accessible and real for thousands of us at the Holy Cross Retreat House through the years. It seems to me that Fr. Joe knew the voice and presence of God so personally that when Jesus knelt by his bed and called his name, it probably wasn’t a surprise.

“Yes, Lord,” he surely said, as he took the hand of God and walked into his reward.

So, no, I’m not sad for our friend. He’s home and at peace, fully restored and certainly singing. As for the friends he left behind, what can we do but try to live our lives according to his great example. As I heard him say many times in his simple prayer to the Father at the end of a cursillo day:

You steer, we’ll row. Amen.


De Colores, in loving memory of our friend, Fr. Joe Callahan

(Joseph, Hebrew: may God give increase Callahan, Irish: lover of churches)

23 responses to “Fr. Joe”

  1. isaiah46ministries Avatar

    What a great tribute to someone you so admired and appeared to be the embodiment of Jesus’s love.

    1. Bernie and Kathy Kelley Avatar
      Bernie and Kathy Kelley

      This is beautiful, as was he! Thank you Kerry Cambell!

  2. Sue O’Brien Avatar
    Sue O’Brien

    Beautifully written and so very true.
    Thank you, Kerry

  3. Ralph Vacca Avatar
    Ralph Vacca

    Hot Dogs 😊 DeColores enjoy your 5th day ❤️ May you Rest In Peace

  4. Jeannie Cambra Avatar
    Jeannie Cambra

    Beautifully scribed. Left me knowing he is at peace and is going to see the King.

    1. kcampbell116 Avatar

      I can hear him singing “soon and very soon” – thank you, Jeannie!

  5. Mae Avatar

    I can as blessed to have met Fr. Joe and enjoyed his company. He was the definition of Grace to me. Sweet rest Fr. Joe

  6. Ed Avatar

    So thankful for the gift of Fr. Joe.
    De Colores brother!

  7. Mary Marquardt Avatar
    Mary Marquardt

    I’m very sad and stunned at the news and will miss Fr Joe dearly but his legacy will live on through so many of us who experienced his loving kindness. I believe he was welcomed home with the words “well done, good and faithful servant”.

  8. Bob Mackey Avatar
    Bob Mackey

    A true man of God who embraced his Priesthood and brought countless others to the Lord.
    May God Bless all of his who were fortunate to have encountered Father Joe.
    He surely will be honored in Heaven for all that he accomplished living and sharing the Good News!

  9. Melina balboni Avatar
    Melina balboni

    Kerri…’ve totally captured the essence of this gift of a man. You’re right, those who knew him were blessed, but missing him will be very difficult. A true man of God whose face brought Jesus to us. Love you Father Joe.

  10. Paula Tolley Avatar
    Paula Tolley

    Wow beautiful words of love. He was an amazing man. I am sad for the people that never meet him but grateful I did during Cursillo #316 ❤️

  11. Barbara Rees Avatar
    Barbara Rees

    A beautiful tribute Kerry. I am so thankful and blessed to have known Fr. Joe IT is thanks to you and Tim I am also both sad and happy What a beautiful day to be with the Lord. De Colores FR. Joe

  12. Joanne Bracken Avatar
    Joanne Bracken

    Thankyou for that beautiful tribute to him!!!!! Feel so blessed to have known him ♡

  13. Susan Lyons Avatar
    Susan Lyons

    Beautiful Kerry….he will be missed so greatly! DeColores…

  14. Michelle Barrett Avatar
    Michelle Barrett

    Beautifully remembered. ❤️🌍

  15. Lynne Avatar

    Thank you, Kerry, for this beautiful tribute to a most-beautiful man. Jim and I owe a lot to his wisdom and spirituality and will always think of him as we travel on our own spiritual paths. We owe our Cursillo journey to you and Tim and we’ll always be grateful. A funny story you should hear; a few years ago I went to visit Fr. Joe at the retreat Houae to gets some of his kindness and love after the death of Jim’s mother over in Ireland. We were chatting about where Jim’s parents lived over there and come to find out, he tells me the specific place on the West of Ireland where his ancestors came from. It just so happens to be this tiny island called Whiddey Island in Bantey where only a few hundred people ever live at a time. My grandparents came from that very same place and we both chuckled over the fact that we’re probably related due to the fact that it’s such a small place!

    Rest In Peace, sweet Joe!

  16. Helen O Avatar
    Helen O

    Kathy so beautiful it made me cry. I have known Father Joe for 8 years and was very fond of his jokes, laughter, and talks we had.
    I feel very blessed to have spent some time with him after my retreat 3 weeks ago. He even had me go outside and get a stick for his Lilly plant that he said “Oh Terri will take care of it” and laughed. I always had so much to say to him and I will miss him dearly but I know he is with Our Heavenly Father watching over us still laughing about my Zumba performance on UTube that I showed him.
    Rest In Peace Father Joe until I see you again.
    Helen O. DeColores #362 🙏✝️😇

  17. Judi D’Angelo Avatar
    Judi D’Angelo

    So eloquently stated and so beautiful just as Fr Joe was . He will truly be missed and his smile surely did light up each and every corner of the Retreat house.
    De Colores & Rest in the sweetest of peace Father Joe 🙏✨🙏

  18. Sean Avatar

    I did two step fives with with Fr Joe and truly felt forgiven and the peace and love God emanate though him. And my life changed for the better for having known him.

  19. Elizabeth Pottier Avatar
    Elizabeth Pottier

    What a beautiful remembrance. Picturing him walking home with Jesus hand in hand was a lovely visual God clearly blessed you all God rest his soul

  20. Dan Kurema Avatar
    Dan Kurema

    Well written Kerry and what a memorable tribute to a man of Faith. He is an Angel watching over all the lives he touched. I am sure he is watching over those he never met too. May he rest in eternal peace.

  21. Tim Kelly Avatar
    Tim Kelly

    My cousin Joe. Remember happy times when you stayed with family in Ireland and with me in London. I only just found out by accident. June 2020. RIP Joe

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