When I heard the news that Tom Royce, SJ, had left his Earthly journey, now welcomed into heaven, I grabbed my GU-in-Florence sweatshirt and put it on. The logo rests over my heart. Seems perfect.
Tom Royce, SJ, taught philosophy at GU my freshman year. “Now, remember, you cannot go from a particular to a universal, but you can go from a universal to a particular. Here’s an example…” The man could get so excited about logic. His students could not help but feel inspired by his academic enthusiasm.
But the real fun came in 1975-1976 when Tom Royce shared the year with our GU-in-Florence class. He soon became known as Padre Pastry – not sure if he coined the moniker or we did. We shared pastry and travel and Italian adventures and woes (ours). Sometimes we went to class. With 92 college students dumped into Europe for a school year, he had lots of entertainment! I later wondered if he laughed or winced each night as he reviewed our daily antics.
On opening tour, we walked the red-light district of Amsterdam with our mouths and eyes wide open. Tom must have enjoyed watching our innocent reactions as we saw prostitutes “advertising” themselves in windows, as naturally as Santa in Macy’s Christmas window. But it was through the routine days of the school year that we met the kind man, Tom Royce. He listened to our drama, our dreams and our challenges. He loved spending time with us, but never tried to be one of us. We shared gelato at Vivoli’s and rode trains to Cervina. He celebrated Mass in the Soviet Union in quiet secret. He taught Documents of Vatican II with lessons I recall: No matter the doctrine, a well-informed conscience wins out – and pastoral compassion. He lived his message. Tom witnessed some wild behavior among our crowd, but I never heard him express shock or judgment. He simply stood by, available to listen, empathize, laugh, guide or comfort. We didn’t know how wonderful he was – so self-absorbed we were that year.
In later years, I heard stories of his compassion as a parish priest: traveling over the Cascade Mountains to Seattle Children’s Hospital where a critically ill child struggled to live. He rode the buses around Portland to his destinations – his eyesight limited long ago. He was unstoppable in his ministry to be the presence of Christ in a hurting world. He lived the joy he preached and therefore, was deeply loved.
May God welcome Tom into the loving light of joy and celebration – a feast of eternal friendship. Our hearts carry memories of a selfless man who shared his gentle humor, deep faith, kindness and passion for life. We send him forth with grateful hearts: arrivederci per ora; grazie di tutto.
(S-R archive photo)