Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fr. Richard Cressman, SDB (1928-2017)

Fr. Richard Cressman, SDB (1928-2017)

by Fr. Steve Ryan, SDB

Fr. Richard M. Cressman died on Monday, July 3, at the St. Philip the Apostle Residence in Tampa. He was 88 and had been a professed Salesian for almost 43 years and a priest for more than 37 years.

Rich was born in Bethlehem, Penn., on August 15, 1928, to Charles and Charlotte Cressman.  He was the second of their five children:  Robert, Richard, Paul, Mary, and Charles.  His undergraduate studies were done at Penn State University, and he earned a Ph.D. in botany at The Ohio State University in 1957. 

Rich was drafted and served in the Army from 1953 to 1955.  Afterward, he worked as a researcher for the USDA in South Dakota and Washington for 15 years.  He enjoyed hiking, swimming, tennis, skiing, nature, and travel.  He was a Boy Scout troop leader for over a decade. He loved chess and as a youth quickly mastered it.  He avidly taught his nieces, nephews, and many young people how to play it. 

In 1972, Rich felt God’s call to the priesthood.  He joined the Salesians as a candidate in 1972 at 44 years of age.  He professed his first vows as a religious on September 1, 1974, and was ordained a priest on May 24, 1980.

Fr. Rich spent his ministry in various assignments, including Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), Salesian Boys & Girls Club (Columbus, Ohio), and Salesian Boys & Girls Club (East Boston).

Fr. Rich moved to a graceful retirement at St. Philip the Apostle Residence at Mary Help of Christians Center in Tampa in 2013.  Fr. Richard tutored and mentored students at Cristo Rey Tampa High School during the past year, the school’s foundation year. This new Catholic high school in Tampa that educates underserved youth was near and dear to his heart. 

Even in his final weeks of life, Fr. Rich continued
to tutor Cristo Rey Tampa's freshmen. (Photo by Fr. Bruce Craig)
Less than a year ago, Fr. Rich was diagnosed with cancer and suffered its effects for the last eight months, cared for by parishioners and family members during his illness. After hospitalization, he came back to St. Philip’s for hospice care about two weeks ago and went peacefully home to the Lord, surrounded by his brother Salesians. 

Funeral services will be held first at Mary Help of Christians Church.  Wake on Wednesday, July 5, from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m.  Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on July 6 at 11:00 a.m.

A second set of services will be celebrated at the Marian Shrine in Haverstraw-Stony Point, N.Y. Wake on Friday, July 7, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 p.m. Fr. Rich will be buried in the Salesian Cemetery in Goshen, N.Y., on Saturday morning, July 8, at 10 o’clock.

Donations in his memory can be sent to Cristo Rey Tampa High School at Mary Help of Christians Center (6400 E. Chelsea St., Tampa FL 33610).

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