This past May, surrounded by his beloved family, a priest in central Ireland named Fr. Frank Gray breathed his last. He was 82.
The nephew of our founder, the great Monsignor Francis Gray, Fr. Frank was a priest for the Diocese of Ardagh for 55 years. A humble, peaceful, soft-spoken man; he was a sterling example of the joy that is found in living a life for Christ and for others. Those that knew him best shared that he was always at the other end of the phone to celebrate good news or to be a tower of strength and support during the dark days.
Fr. Frank’s uncle, Monsignor Gray, founded his Camp in 1953. Sadly, soon after, Monsignor Gray became quite ill, causing him to return home to Ireland to recuperate at the Gray family farm in County Longford.
Similarly for Frank, 1953 was a tough year, as his father died in January of that year. Fortunately for Frank, the arrival of his uncle, the Monsignor, was a wonderful gift.
As Fr. Frank would tell it, Monsignor’s whole day centered on the Mass. Although Monsignor Gray had become frail, he would still celebrate Mass each day in the living room of their home, with Frank and his brother Matthew standing on either side of him so Monsignor wouldn’t fall.
This was a very fertile time for Monsignor Gray’s Camp, because he offered his sufferings for the Camp’s success. He didn’t know how it would express itself in the years ahead, but he knew that it would, and he knew that the Camp would be carried on by his friends in south-central Wisconsin.
Every day, for many months, Frank and his brother stood on either side of The Monsignor, praying with him, watching him as he offered mass within their home offer the mass up close. Later, Fr. Frank would share that he owed his priestly vocation to his uncle. Fr. Frank saw his uncle experience great suffering, and yet, the Monsignor remained at peace and had great trust in Our Lord.
For 55 years, Fr. Frank faithfully followed in his uncle’s footsteps. He served in several parishes and schools throughout central Ireland, joyfully spreading the Gospel to many. Twice, once in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, Fr. Frank traveled from Ireland to Wisconsin to visit his uncle’s Camp.
Fr. Frank was quick to point out that our beloved Camp wasn’t always known as Camp Gray. It was only after the Monsignor’s passing, in 1957, that the Camp was named “Gray” in his honor. The continued connection to the Gray family in Ireland is a wonderful gift for us here at Camp Gray – it’s a unique and lasting bond we have with the family of our founder.
We’re honored to carry on the Gray name., and we hope and pray that the legacy of our founder, and of Fr. Frank, and the whole Gray family – a legacy of faith and trust – will remain with our Camp always.
On this beautiful summer day, as the laughter and joy of children can be heard all throughout Camp Gray, we thank God for Monsignor Gray’s vision, the long lasting support and kindness of the Gray family, and the great witness of Fr. Frank.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”