Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Taylor Frank: Monsignor Richard Albert – the best man I’ve even known

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The death of Monsignor Richard Albert has brought me tremendous sadness. He was, unequivocally, the best man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing; and the impact he had on the people he served will not soon be forgotten.

I first met Msgr Albert through the Jamaican Advantage thru Sports Youth - or JASY - Camp in 2009. JASY Camp was established through the St Patrick's Foundation - the foundation that the Monsignor established in 1994. The camp allows children who go to the foundation's schools to attend a weeklong sports camp. Children swim, play football, volleyball and other sports and learn a Bible lesson through arts and crafts - all free of charge.

This camp that Msgr Albert helped establish has changed the lives of the hundreds of children who have participated, but it has also changed my life - along with the lives of my friends who have volunteered to run the camp. I feel so blessed that my church in Pittsford, New York, allowed me the opportunity to experience the awesomeness of these children from communities like Seaview Gardens and Riverton City.

GENUINE INTEREST

Whenever the Monsignor dropped in with his dog Sligo, the children's faces lit up as they yelled, "Hello, Father!" He greeted everyone he could and was genuinely interested in bettering these children's lives. As wide as the children's smiles were, his was as wide - if not wider.

In a '60 Minutes' special that aired several years ago, Msgr Albert said that he fell in love with Jamaica when he first arrived as a Catholic missionary from the Bronx in 1976. Although I do not consider myself a missionary, I felt the same way when I first came to Kingston in 2009. I came back twice more before I decided to study for a semester at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Before I arrived in January 2014, I sent an email to the Monsignor asking if I could volunteer at one of his schools. He took me to lunch the week I arrived and drove me to the different schools and centres that the St Patrick's Foundation sponsored. A week later, I began teaching remedial math at St Margaret's Human Resource Centre on Thursdays and Fridays.

THE 'RECOMMENDEE'

The children I taught - though they could be a handful - were wonderful. They came to class excited and ready to learn; all the while thankful for the opportunity given to them through Msgr Albert's kindness. Likewise, the teachers and workers at St Margaret's helped me along the way, even though they only knew me as the young man who Msgr Albert recommended.

Outside of his work in the St Patrick's Foundation, the Monsignor was well-spoken, witty and incredibly kind-hearted. I went to lunch with him as often as I could, usually going to China Express. We would talk about our lives - everything from our volunteer work to our families to politics. He always joked around with our servers, but had something kind to say about them every time.

As I reflect on the Monsignor's life and all of his accom-plishments, I can't help but sit back and smile as a tear comes to my eye. Msgr Albert was - and still is - a role model to me, my American peers who met him and to every Jamaican man and woman he crossed paths with. I will remember him and the kindness he exuded for as long as I live - and I know I am not alone in doing so. Msgr Richard Albert taught us all that out of our many backgrounds and nationalities, we are all one people of the world.

taylorfrank@gmail.com