Earlier this month, Food For The Poor lost a dear and devoted friend: Fr. Richard Martin. Jim McDaniel, Program Specialist at FFP who worked with Fr. Martin of Church of the Nativity for 16 years, shares his memories.
Rev. Richard B. Martin
Oct. 17, 1939 – May 3, 2014
By Jim McDaniel
Fr. Dick Martin was “a good shepherd.” Fr. Martin’s “flock” was his family, his parishioners, and his friends at Food For The Poor. The most treasured of his flock, however, were the poor in Haiti, Cameroon, Uganda, the Philippines and wherever he found them. Anyone he encountered left with a connection to this man, no matter how fleeting that moment together might have been.
Among Fr. Martin’s flock were many people who came to him with trouble, pain and hurt in their lives. There was a waitress who lost her job; Fr. Martin found work for her. There was a priest who suffered a crisis of faith; Fr. Martin arranged a retreat and counseling for him. There was a young man dying of brain cancer; Fr. Martin visited him faithfully and took care of his wife and children during the illness and well afterwards. There was a woman who was afraid to come back to the church because of her past; Fr. Martin had coffee with her, accepted her, took her pain onto himself, and loved her back to a relationship with Christ.
There were many happy times in the sheepfold as well. Fr. Martin loved Baptisms, weddings, anniversaries and celebrations. He enjoyed being with the students at Nativity School. He was quick to give them “no-uniform days,” often catching the administrators by surprise and delighting the children.
Fr. Martin reserved the better part of his energy for the poor. He was passionate in his urging that we do more than pray for them.
Fr. Martin founded Operation Starfish in 1999. Over the next 16 years of working with Food For The Poor, he and his Church of the Nativity parishioners funded the development of nine villages in Haiti, with more than 1,000 houses. A tenth village will be started this year. Every year, Fr. Martin made mission trips with Food For The Poor to Haiti to visit his “Nativity Villages.” He delighted in wandering through the villages, visiting with families in their homes, getting lost among his people. He was like a pied piper in Haiti, with children tagging along after him wherever he went. Although warned not to, he would fill his pockets with crumpled dollar bills and hand them out to the kids. They screamed with delight and he laughed uncontrollably.
We have lost a good shepherd, but he taught us well. He taught the Gospel by living it. We now must do the same.