When we got the word from one of his students that Pat Tracy had died on September 17, we felt immediately overwhelmed, devastated. “Death is impossible” we thought, a truism from the philosopher Sartre which seemed truer than ever with Patrick’s death at age 64. Patrick had worked his way into the heart and soul of Agape for over twenty years.
When our emotions settled and the reality of Pat’s passing set in, we thought: How will Agape go on without Pat? He was one of the precious few, who, we could say with conviction “kept Agape up and running.” Where there was Pat; there was hope.
Pat Tracy arrived at Agape in the mid-nineties, with a student group from St. John’s University in New York. He was a big, round bear of a man, a gray-bearded Irish Catholic, with an even bigger Brooklyn, “Nu Yawk” accent. You do not forget a personality like Pat’s. We felt this unforgettable quality the instant we met him. The fact was that after he walked across the threshold into the living room at Francis House for the first time, he absolutely never let up walking into that same living room for decades, all the way from “the city.”
Faithfully, year after year, Patrick brought college students from St. Joseph’s College on Long Island and St. John’s University, to participate in our weekend retreats on gospel nonviolence, prayer and eco-theology. As a campus minister at St. Joseph’s, he regularly brought students for three day rural immersions. Then, he would come back in June for our workday, faithfully recruiting students, teachers and administrators to schlep all the way from Long Island one or two days before. Pat, always thinking of others, wanted to get to Agape early so that he could help to set up all of the work sites for splitting and stacking wood and for preparing and planting our summer garden, a “flat-out” two days. He never left without offering his $200 tithe.
Pat animated all work crews as the “go-to” handy man. But, his first love was stand-up comedy. This man’s comedic engine was always running; he was continually joking, a laughter-maker. He hated “problems,” and, for Pat, a “difficult problem” had a life span of 30 seconds as he would immediately pummel the current dilemma with five or more solutions. Pat and his students would often hit Agape on the rebound from storm-damaged New Orleans, Hurricane Sandy in New York or tornado demolished Oklahoma. He and his young protégées were born to be “on the move,” repairing broken places and healing traumatized people in them.
A professional cook by trade, and a long-time bartender, Pat was tireless with his banter. As a frequent cook at Agape’s Francis Days, he never stopped preparing meals and importing his Pat Tracy-isms. Breakfast, he reminded his clientele, “is the most important meal of the day, until lunch!” Pat was a man for everyone. His Masters in Theology didn’t get in the way of his being a friend to everyone, never losing his New York City street smarts. You couldn’t fool this guy. “You know what I’m sayin’?”
A single man in his 60’s, until he found Dolores in the last year of his life, we never remember Pat’s going on vacation or taking care of “number one”. He simply gave his live away every day–looked after his mother as she aged, tended to family and sibling needs. Pat traveled to the city with parish groups on cold nights to hand out food and blankets to the desperate homeless. Giving seemed to be all he knew how to do; and oh, how he gave to Agape throughout these last 25 years. Pat’s “type A” generosity meant that he was spent, to the max, and his workhorse body just gave away.