He built parishes and camps, established the Foundation for Senior Living, was a founding board member of Life Teen and met a saint, yet Msgr. Richard Moyer considers parish ministry the highlight of his 50 years of service to the Church.
“That’s how you learn your community and develop relationships,” he said.
Surrounded by family, friends and former parishioners, Msgr. Moyer celebrated his golden jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood May 3 at St. Jerome Parish, where he was pastor from 1975 to 1984.
“He has a heart of gold and does everything he can to help people and make their life better,” said Fr. Richard Felt, VF, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Mesa. “He was a big, big influence in the diocese.”
Fr. Felt has known Msgr. Moyer for the past 45 years, and the two share a bond of priestly fraternity and friendship.
He said there was one thing he could always count on when it comes to Msgr. Moyer, “he keeps his promise.”
Originally from Ohio, Msgr. Moyer and his two siblings grew up during the Great Depression. By the time he was 9, his grandfather had taught him how to use a jigsaw, lathe, table saw and a drill press.
Those tools of the trade proved valuable decades later when Msgr. Moyer built cabins and a lodge at Camp Tepeyac in Prescott, now owned by Mesa-based Life Teen International, and the current church at St. Jerome Parish.
The Depression era also helped Msgr. Moyer learn the value of a dollar and cultivate his pragmatic approach to finances, which served him well as the vicar general for the Diocese of Phoenix for two decades, vicar for Christian Witness (director of Catholic Charities) and vicar for administrative services.
“I never bought anything on time in my life,” he said. “I didn’t go in debt. If you don’t have the money to pay for it, don’t buy it.”
Following high school, Msgr. Moyer was inspired to become a priest by the Navy chaplains he met while serving during the Korean War.
Once he entered St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, he put another skill he learned as a child to good use: music.
Msgr. Moyer accompanied the choir on piano.
One Christmas when he was 10, what he thought was a brand new bike in the back of his aunt’s truck turned out to be a piano for his sister.
Not only did he learn to play, but a nun taught him the organ. He played and earned money at his home parish of St. Joseph in Freemont, Ohio, for two years while the organist served in World War II.
“I used music a lot through my life,” Msgr. Moyer said. “When I feel nostalgic I fiddle on it.”
Ordained for the Diocese of Tucson in 1964, his first parish assignment as associate pastor was St. Francis of Assisi in Yuma, then Ss. Peter and Paul in Tucson.
When the Phoenix Diocese was established in 1969, Msgr. Moyer remained in the Valley of the Sun with Catholic Charities.
He returned to school at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he received a master’s degree in social work in 1971.
Other positions include vicar of Northern Arizona, pastor of St. John Vianney in Sedona, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, pastor of Our Lady of Joy in Carefree and he was a member of numerous boards and organizations throughout his tenure.
Saint John Paul II, whom he met, conferred the honorary title of monsignor in 1987.
“Msgr. Moyer is a fine example of a priest. He has the heart of a pastor and exemplifies a fatherly role,” said Fr. Fred Adamson, vicar general. “He is a great example and a man of joy and dedication to the Church. I think the world of him.”
Although he retired in 2005, Msgr. Moyer continues to volunteer with Life Teen, and celebrates Mass wherever he is needed.
“As long as I’m healthy, I’ll stay in ministry,” Msgr. Moyer said. “When I’m free, I’ll help out. I know what it means to need help.”
We ask five priests also celebrating 50 years: What have you loved most about being a priest?
My chance to share in the joys and the sorrows of people along the way, to be accepted into their lives at critical moments. — Fr. Herbert Hauck, ordained Dec. 16, 1964, Rome, Italy
Just being able to support people in their faith and certainly with working in high school, with their spiritual and social development. — Fr. E. Louis Bishop, SJ, ordained June 10, 1964, Los Angeles, Calif.
I can say, I think very easily, serving God’s people. — Fr. Alonso De Blas, OFM, ordained Dec. 19, 1964, Santa Barbara, Calif.
For me, the spiritual life is more exciting all the time. — Fr. Lawrence Baumann, ordained Feb. 21, 1964, New Ulm, Minn.
It has been being able to greet Christ in the people I meet, coming to know and love the Lord Jesus in the people that I serve.— Fr. James Thornton, CSC, ordained Dec. 18, 1964, Chicago, Ill.