Jesuit Brother Richard P. May, a skilled carpenter and bookkeeper, died Nov. 1, 2014, in Denver, Colorado. He was 71 years old and had been a Jesuit for 50 years, during which he built chapels in Belize and cared for the buildings at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado, where he worked for the past 21 years. He died only weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Br. May was born in Conway Springs, Kansas, on June 13, 1943. He grew up living on a farm, and attended grammar school and high school in Conway Springs. He began the process of entering the Jesuits on Jan. 30, 1964; he could have entered some months earlier, but asked to delay his entrance in order to help with the winter wheat. He entered the novitiate on July 30, 1964, at St. Stanislaus Seminary, in Florissant, Missouri.
After working at Florissant as a junior brother following first vows, Br. May was assigned to Kapaun High School in Wichita, Kansas, for two years before heading to Belize, where he served for 21 years, interrupted only by a four-year assignment at St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming. In Belize, he worked at St. John’s College in Belize City and at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda. He helped Mayan villagers throughout the southern part of country construct chapels and schools.
In 1991 he was missioned to Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, where his steady and dependable presence doing maintenance and keeping financial accounts contributed to the apostolic effectiveness of the retreat center.
Br. May’s Jesuit life was a model of simplicity and dedication to whatever mission he was given. He had few wants and was a pleasant addition to any community: dependable and easy-going, with a good sense of humor. He did not like to draw attention to himself; however, his contribution could never go without notice.
For the past 21 years, he was a fixture at Sacred Heart Retreat House. He was tireless, always finding something to create or fix. He created a fountain from the Sacred Heart statue with a stream flowing a hundred yards down to a lovely lily pond and then circulating back to the fountain. Although the retreat house is on a high hill in snow country, snow never a problem because the Jesuit brother kept the roads open, often going out at 3 a.m. to get a head start. His quiet service, along with his unfailing kindness and diligence, made a huge difference to those who came to the retreat house.
He was buried on Nov. 4, 2014, after a funeral Mass at Sacred Heart Retreat House. He is preceded in death by his parents, Bernard May and Cecilia Ebenkemp May, and a brother, Robert May. Two brothers, James May and Donald May, and two sisters, Jean Shobe and Marilyn Spohr, survive him.
Memorial gifts may be made to the USA Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus at 4511 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 or through this website.