Fr. John Michael Payne, OCD
August 11, 1941 - January 8, 2017
Fr. John Michael Payne, OCD, a friar of our Province, died in the afternoon of the feast of the Epiphany, January 8, 2017. He was at Marylake, the house he most loved, where he was serving as superior. It was a sudden heart attack that took him. None of us expected it. Thus, it descends on us like a bird of prey.
Yes, his death will register as a shock throughout the province. We will all take it hard. Fr. John Michael, needless to say, was a prominent member of the province. Everyone liked him. And, given his idiosyncrasies, he was a bit of a "presence" among us. I personally will miss that presence. It will be like having a hole among us whenever we gather for this or that provincial event.
Here is some biographical information for Fr. John Michael. More will be forthcoming. We'll send out the obituary once it's published. I also think it would be meaningful for the OCDS to do something by way of a commemoration. Maybe we can get a few Seculars who knew Fr. John Michael well and even worked with to write up a reminisence or two.
Fr. John Michael Payne of the Child Jesus was born on August 11, 1941. His parents named him Patrick. Thus, before entering Carmel he went by the moniker Patrick Payne, a name he once told me he was happy to part with when he entered religious life and took the name John Michael. He made profession on July 20, 1964, the feast of St. Elijah. I know he did his theology here and there around the country, in California for a while and then in Washington, DC, among other places. He was ordained a priest on June 13, 1970.
I know that Fr. John Michael was a devotee of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. May she have been there at the piano [see photo on the right] waiting to receive him with a happy tune as he joins her in that corner of God's kingdom where Carmelites congregate.
— Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
Thoughts and Prayers
by Clarence Landry, OCDS
Our Community (in Baton Rouge, LA) grieves the loss of Fr. John Michael who gave us so much in friendship and knowledge of Carmelite Spirituality…. He is in our thoughts and prayers as well as all of the Friars.Photo taken during the 2014 OCDS Congress in Atlanta: Fr. John Michael with Nancy Thompson, a Secular Carmelite in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Remembering Fr. John Michael
by Elizabeth Ogilvie, OCDS
Granted, I didn’t know Fr John Michael very well having spoken to him only twice in my years as a Secular; but I remember these moments as if they just occurred. He did not sing the opening hymn Amazing Grace, and the expression on his face struck me as evidence of a deeply recollected soul. Whatever it was, it was manifested in his sermon in a way that profited me deeply. In fact, my experience of that sermon was so profound I know exactly where Fr. John Michael deviated from his originally written text(available for download here).
It is from the graces received during that entire weekend, and in his sermon why I feel obligated to share this photo for those who know and love him. If it brings Joy or succor to anyone – Praise God. My heart goes out to all our Friars, Nuns and Seculars affected by his sudden passing.
Tribute to Fr. John Michael
by Gerald Alford, OCDS
I joined the Secular Discalced Carmelites in Lafayette, LA in 1977. The community then was in disarray. The Mother Prioress of the Lafayette Discalced Carmelite Nuns asked a few of us to try to bring it together. In those days, after being clothed, you had a formation period of two years in preparation for the Promise. It was definitive profession. I had several weeks before I was eligible for the Promise when I was chosen by this group to be Formation Director. That decision more or less coincided with Fr. John Michael’s visit to our community as Provincial Delegate. He reprimanded us for choosing me for that important position prior to my making the Promise. So this was my first experience with Fr. John Michael. Technically I came to see that he was correct, but I had to appreciate his flexibility in accepting the need for the decision we made at that time. I would learn over the years that Fr. John Michael had the ability to be forthright and yet flexible. In this regard I think of what Jesus said about Nathaniel and, paraphrasing a bit, I say that to me he was a Carmelite without guile. He always said what he thought. Sometimes it hurt a little but the hurt never lingered because you recognized it was said for the sake of the truth, and without malice.
To me he was a Friar who was deeply dedicated to the secular branch of the Order. He was faithful in making visits to the communities when that was his responsibility, and to being accessible and responsive at all times to our ￼￼￼￼needs. For me, personally, he was the friar I came to know the best. He became my mentor and guide. He was always supportive of my growth in Carmel. He recommended me to serve on the National Board and then later to serve on the first Provincial Council. On the council I had the opportunity to work with him more closely and on a more regular basis. I think my fellow council members would agree that although we recognized his position of authority, in discussions, we always felt we could speak freely because he listened and was always generous in acknowledging our ideas, never trying to force his own opinion.
On a personal level, I enjoyed his sense of humor and appreciated his writing skills. When he was Provincial Delegate he composed a newsletter that was always so informative and delightful to read. I especially benefited from his devotion to the history of the Province and his sharing with us that knowledge. He was a natural for being the archivist. He had a number of “secular” interests prompted by his curiosity about the world about him. I found out that at one time he was movie critic and so he shared my interest in the cinema. When he came to Lafayette, he would have dinner with my wife and I in our home, or I would take him out to one of his favorite restaurants where he particularly enjoyed the turtle soup. He taught me that indeed there was a time for penance and a time for pheasant. He helped me develop a healthy perspective about living Carmel in my state of life.
I will miss his accessibility, being able to run into him at conferences and congresses, being able to hear his ready laugh, being able to have his full attention when I talked with him about something serious to me, enjoying his sometimes unique view in presenting teachings in homilies and conferences, being able to experience what I saw to be a childlike capacity to find the Lord present in his interaction with others and the world around him. May our Lady lead him swiftly into the bosom of the Trinity to be forever a Praise of God’s Glory.