Six years ago, when my good friend, Msgr. Thomas Wells, was murdered in his rectory in Germantown, it sent shock waves through our whole area. Those of us who knew him well struggled to come to terms with life without our spiritual father and good friend. He was one of the wisest, most honest, and most generous people we had known. In many ways, he was a spiritual and intellectual giant.
Also, Fr Wells ("FW") was one of the funnest people any of us had known. So, the other struggle we had was picking out our favorite "Wells stories" because there were so many! There were the golf trips, skiing trips, vacations at the beach, retreats, and various get-togethers at local establishments. While FW undoubtedly spent most of his priesthood helping people in very serious and powerful ways, the more lighthearted moments will be my focus here and in some future posts.
When I first met Fr Wells, he made an impression; I'm just not sure what kind of impression it was! I was answering phones in the evenings at Our Lady of Lourdes parish rectory in 1987. One evening, he came down to my office wearing a t-shirt and swimming trunks with a towel draped over his shoulder. He said, "Hi, I'm the new priest, Fr Wells. I'm going to a pool party. You wanna go?" I said, "Hi. Umm, no, I can't. I have to stay here and answer the phones". He said, "Ok, well, see ya later", and walked away rather hurriedly.
Years later, we were driving down to the Outer Banks for a beach vacation. As we got near Richmond, FW said, "buddy, get a map out of the glove box". I said, "Why? We know the way around Richmond". "Trust Father" is all he said. 'Uh oh', I thought. So, I got the map for him, and sure enough, we began taking a different route than usual. About 20 minutes later, we had gone so far off the highway that we were on dirt roads! Next thing I know, Fr Wells is clapping, hooting, and hollering: "78 cents a gallon!! 78 cents!!" He had found an old gas station that offered one of his favorite pleasures in life: cheap gas.
Now, this is one that I told in a homily a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating. Fr Wells was watching the movie, "Jesus of Nazareth" with friends of his many years ago. "Jesus of Nazareth" is a very long movie. Just as it was reaching its climax in Jesus' Passion, Fr Wells' friends noticed that he was asleep! "Fr Wells, Fr Wells, wake up. You're missing 'Jesus of Nazareth'". Fr Wells woke up, looked around rather dazed and confused, and said, "I know how it ends", and went back to sleep.