St. Agatha Home for children was started by five Sisters of Charity in 1884. After periods of growth and change, it closed in 2003. Despite the closing of the facility and the demolition of its buidings, the community remains alive.
It gathered today to honor Rodophus "Rudy" Polk who died at the age of 75, having worked as a childcare worker, athletic coach and various other capacities at the home. This morning I stood with many others in a small graveyard in the woods in Nanuet as his remains were interred with military honors. There were people of all ages, sized and colors. There where white-haired Sisters of Charity in habits and civvies. There were staff from all eras and alums of all ages. The deacon who presided, his hair graying, was one of the "kids" under Rudy's care. We walked down the hill past the few remaining cottages. Though most of the buildings on the grounds of the home were demolished, the alumni organized to save the bell tower, which is now installed in a small garden surrounded by a memorial walk studded with names of alums.
We walked on to the old school gymnasium where a memorial service was conducted. Rudy's brother, Donald, who had also worked at the home, gave a eulogy that was emotional, funny and richly descriptive of the man whose light eyes entranced the ladies. A slide show followed, then open mike followed by refreshments and mingling.
My friend John had told me that Rudy was a quiet and unassuming man. It was inspiring to see all of the men and women whose lives he had touched so deeply. There was sadness as both Rudy and the Home itself were mourned, but there was joy, too, in the reunion of the community.
I see a piece of Our Lady of Vilnius in St. Agatha and I hope we find a way to reunite our community, to tie it to its tradition and to keep its spirit moving forward into the future.
God bless you, Rudy Polk. We will keep you in our prayers at Our Lady of Vilnius and we ask you to pray for us.