NOTRE DAME, Ind. Rev. J. Robert Rioux, C.S.C., 92, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind. on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.
He was born on June 19, 1924, to John (Jean) Philias and Elmire Jean (Joly) Rioux in New Bedford, Mass. He received the Sacraments and attended grammar school at St. Joseph Parish in New Bedford. After graduating from New Bedford Vocational School, he entered the United States Navy and served for three years during World War II. He participated in the V-12 Program in the Navy, and he received a World War II Medal of Victory. He was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross in September, 1947, professed his first vows on August 16, 1950, and made his final profession on August 16, 1953. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame in 1952, a Master’s from Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C. in 1955, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1956.
Fr. Rioux served as an instructor at Fr. Baker High School in Lackawanna, NY in September 1956. He was then sent to serve in the parish in Bennington, VT and to teach at the local Catholic high school. Someone with Fr. Rioux’s background was then needed at King’s College, where he served for a year before going to Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, CT. He spent four years there with a one-year interval in order to complete an MA Degree in French and Spanish from Fordham. In 1965, he moved from Notre Dame High School to Albany and joined the staff of Father Peyton’s Family Rosary Crusade. He stayed with Fr. Pat for a total of 13 years in two different time frames. He also got involved in fund raising for the crusades. After Vatican II, stayed in Madrid for the year long program, and in time got involved in the crusades in Milwaukee then Panama and Guayaquil, Ecuador. Once he returned to Albany, he became the Director of Development and oversaw the funding activities of the office there. In 1972, Fr. Rioux accepted a position as Fund Raising Consultant in Maryland, where clients were priests and nuns fund raising for their religious communities. After a couple of years, the University of Notre Dame extended an invitation to Fr. Rioux to interview for a staff position in the Notre Dame Development Office. He became the Director of the Annual Fund and was successful at it. While at Notre Dame, Fr. Rioux created the Subway Alumni Association and co-founded the Sorin Society. Fr. Rioux remained in this position for three years, before accepting a position as Director of Planned Giving at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. While there, he lived in the local parish and made many friends among the faculty. In his fifth year in Macomb, Fr. Rioux was persuaded to return to the Family Rosary Crusade, this time for seven years. In 1988, Fr. Rioux enrolled in a renewal program in Oakland, Calif. at the School of Applied Theology. In time, the director of the school learned of his background and approached him about helping out. He raised funds while attending as a student and at the end of the year, he became their new Director of Development for the next six years, when his Provincial in the East asked him to return to North Dartmouth to assist in 1994. In 2001, Fr. Rioux became Superior and became an elder when the term ended. Fr. Rioux moved to Holy Cross House in 2012.
Preceding him in death are his parents, John and Elmire Rioux; brothers, Armand Joseph Rioux, Roland (Rock) Rioux, and Arthur P. Rioux; sisters, Lillian (Rioux) McCarthy, Ina (Rioux) Bissonnette LaFrance, Annette Jeanne (Rioux) Leger, and Marie Claire Rioux, who entered the convent and assumed the name Sr. Jeanne DeChantal, SSJ.
He is survived by a sister-in-law Jeannette (Fenette) Rioux of New Bedford, Mass., as well as several nephews and nieces.
Visitation at the Chapel of Mary, Stonehill College, Easton, MA, will take place Thursday (Sept. 8, 2016) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., with a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at 10:00 a.m. Friday (Sept. 9, 2016) at the Chapel of Mary, Stonehill College, Easton, MA. Burial will follow at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery at Stonehill College.Kaniewski Funeral Home of South Bend, IN and Kane Funeral Home of Easton, MA are in charge of the arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross via: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, 500 Washington Street, North Easton, MA 02356-1299 or online at donate.holycrossusa.org.
Homily for Mass of the Resurrection of Father J. Robert Rioux, C.S.C.
by Rev. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Sept. 9, 2016, Chapel of Mary, Stonehill College, North Easton, MA
Judas Maccabaeus acted in a very excellent and noble way when he raised funds to pray for the fallen heroes in death. And Christ has been raised from the dead as the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. And from that hour the disciple took her into his house. Just a word about Fundraising, about the Risen Lord at the Center of our lives and about Mary, our Mother and the long goodbye.
Father Rioux spent much of his life as a religious of Holy Cross and a priest in the ministry of fundraising. The great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen said: “From the perspective of the Gospel fundraising is, first and foremost, a form of ministry. It is a way of proclaiming our vision and inviting other people into our mission. Vision and mission are so central to the life of God’s people that without vision we perish and without mission we lose our way. Vision brings together needs and the resources to meet those needs. We declare that we have a vision that is amazing and exciting . We are inviting others to invest themselves through the resources God has given them-their energy, their prayers, and their money-in this work to which God has called us. Our invitation is clear and confident because we trust that our vision and mission are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.“
Father Rioux shared both Vision and Mission at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, the School of Applied Theology in Berkeley, California and for the long stretch of more than thirteen years at Family Rosary in Albany, Spain and around the globe. We and thousands of people around the world the still benefit from his efforts.
Saint Paul reminds of that the Risen Jesus is the First fruits of those who have fallen asleep and in doing so he evokes the rich tradition among devout Jews of taking the very best of their harvest, the first in quality and perfection and offering it to the Lord in gratitude. Just as Jesus is the First fruits of the coming Kingdom, and offered no less than his very self to the Father, so Bob Rioux, 66 years ago offered his very self to the Father as a consecrated religious for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Faithful to those vows, he joined a great band of Holy Cross brothers who responded to their baptism into Christ by following the Master in proclaiming the God News with their very lives. Also called to the priesthood, he responded by making Christ present in word and sacrament with quiet dignity and beauty spanning 60 years of ordained ministry.
Nancy Reagan called her husband’s final illness “the long goodbye.” In recent years we have seen many of our Holy Cross religious, and others too, pass from confusion, into memory loss, dementia and even Alzeimer’s disease. These include Gus Peverada, Bill Beston, Jim Burtcheall, Jim Kelly, Frank Walsh, and our brother, Father Bob Rioux. This raises a question, “Why” and what lesson can be gleaned from these “long Goodbyes.” We may have to wait until our own entrance into eternity to know the full answer. Still, I would like to offer one final small, unscientific thought about this for your consideration. Russell Baker, the New York Times Columnist in the second half of the 20th century, in his autobiography “Growing Up,” shared his own experience of his mother sinking into dementia. One cold and rainy fall day, he arrived at the nursing home to visit his mother who was seldom able to recognize him and others. Feeling sorry for her condition and somewhat sad himself on this dreary day, he described entering her room, uncertain what condition he would find her in. On this occasion, she was filled with joy and laughter and obviously having the time of her life. She seemed to be all alone in the room but when he asked her why she was so joyful, she said, Oh we are having a picnic and all my best friends are here and it is a beautiful, sunny spring day out in the country on a mountainside. He said, I came apprehensive about what I would find, and left uplifted and joyful myself knowing what a delightful time she was having. It occurred to me that I was limited by time and space to a dull rainy day in fall, but she was liberated from the constraints of time and space and free to travel and enjoy the adventure. Maybe the Kingdom in its fullness is that liberation from the constraints of time and space on steroids.
When Jesus, along with giving us his very self, also gives us his Mother and entrusts us to her care, does he not invite us to welcome her into our hearts and homes? Does he not make it possible for us to be inspired by her freedom and her joy? And does she not always lead us to her Son, Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ? He is truly Risen and we will rise again with Him on the last day! Alleluia! Thanks be to God!