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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Remembering Adam Crowe ...


My classmate, Rev. Mr. Adam Scott Crowe should be celebrating his 36th birthday tomorrow, Sunday, October 28th. He was to be ordained to the Priesthood on May 30, 2009. Unfortunately, he passed away on January 27, 2009 shortly after our return to seminary for our final semester. The following was written a few days after that terrible January day. I have updated it to make it current, but it is essentially the same.

August 27, 2003. We were two men from very different backgrounds both entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary for the first time. I was considerably older and had worked for a number of years prior to thinking that God was calling me to be a priest. I had lived (and worked) in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland prior to answering God’s call. I was entering Pre-Theology, the program designed for older vocations who already had a college degree, but not enough pre-requisite Philosophy credits to take graduate Theology courses. Adam Scott Crowe grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and was entering third college, his junior year. He had entered college seminary as a freshman, but unfortunately that seminary and the seminary he would attend the following year would both close because of low enrollment. Saint Charles would be the third seminary experience in his life, while Saint Charles was my first. As “New Men” we each knew of the other, and shared many of the same experiences of first year seminarians at Saint Charles, but it would not be until the second year at Saint Charles that we would really become close friends.

During my second year at the seminary, I was part of the seminary’s Spirituality Year Program in Northampton, Pennsylvania. We would occasionally come down to Saint Charles for different events. Adam was in his senior year. One of men I had befriended during my first and second year, Gene Ritz, was also a good friend of Adam’s and as a result, when we came down, we would inevitably find ourselves in Adam’s room. Adam and I hit it off and became good friends in our own right. We would eventually find ourselves as classmates during our third year in the seminary. Our group of friends grew very close, as individuals who share the same experiences often will.

At the end of the spring 2008 semester, we were both ordained Transitional Deacons and looked forward to our last year of the seminary. Fall semester 2008 flew and before we knew it, it was time to return for our final semester at Saint Charles. As the spring semester 2009 (our final semester) began that January, Adam was not feeling well. We began classes, went to the March for Life, and re-started our weekends in our Diaconate assignments. The following Monday, Adam was still not feeling well and slept in. He did not come down for Morning Prayer or Mass and did not attend classes. I checked in on him before and after my night class that Monday. He was not feeling any better and honestly, he looked terrible. I asked him if he wanted to go to the Emergency Room. He said no, he would be calling his doctor for an appointment for sometime on Tuesday. He asked if I could take him and I said that I would. So Tuesday after class, I went to check to see when we were going to go to his doctor. I knocked on the door and didn’t get an answer. I opened the door, knowing he had left it unlocked, and called his name. No response. Our rooms in the Theology Division were joined ... two men sharing a common bathroom. The room next to Adam's was empty, so he had a suite of sorts. He wasn’t in bed ... so I thought he might be next door. I walked further into his room calling his name and found him on the floor of the bathroom. He was unresponsive and I had a very bad feeling. 911 was called. When the EMTs arrived, they quickly determined that it was too late. Adam was gone. He had passed away sometime during the night.

I can remember praying in the hallway outside of Adam’s room with a group of friends and Fr. Gus Esposito, one of our professors. I remember being pulled away and asked to write a statement by the police since I was the one who initially found him. Afterward, with the hall deserted, Fr. Steve Dougherty, another professor, asked if I was all right. We went to the chapel to pray. Everything was deserted. There was no one in sight. I remember praying for what seemed like a very long time in Immaculate Conception Chapel and then going back to the dorm to try to find my friends. It was quiet. It was empty. I finally found everyone in our friend's, Ben’s, room and at first we just sat there stunned … no one really saying anything. The friend in me wondered and wanted to know why this happened. The former science guy in me wondered and wanted to know why this happened. As we prepared for Evening Prayer a bit later, I had to go to my room and walked past Adam’s room where two maintenance guys were changing the lock on Adam’s room. I understood the practical side of doing that ... but at the same time I was angry and profoundly resented what they were doing. Over the next couple of days, our professors tried to keep us focused on other things. It was hard. Adam sat right behind me in class and the lack of his presence left an enormous hole.

That first night after dinner, a bunch of us ... Ben, Danny, Jamie, Steve, Joel, Gene ... his closest friends, went to John Henry's Pub to toast our friend. When we got there, Adam's Diocesan brothers in the seminary ... Tom, Scott, Ryan, and Nick were also there. We shared stories and laughs and tears as we remembered all the good things Adam was to us.

The seminary travelled from Philadelphia to Ogdensburg to say goodbye to Adam and to offer support and prayers for his grieving family. That was February 1st and 2nd. It was a long, difficult trip, and as we got off the bus, the bleak white winter landscape matched what many of us were feeling. It was incredibly surreal to see Adam lying in state in the center of the Ogdensburg cathedral. The following Friday, February 6th, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the seminary community, and the individuals unable to make the long trip remembered Adam during a Memorial Mass in Saint Martin Chapel on the seminary grounds.

The semester wore on. Final exams were soon upon us. There should have been excitement because we were rapidly approaching Ordination. That excitement was tempered with caution and sadness. Someone was missing. Fr. Gleason, our Spiritual Director, gave the class a picture entitled "Homecoming" during our last conference. It is a picture of a young man dressed in white being embraced by Jesus and the ethereal hands of God the Father and the Holy Spirit enfold the entire scene. It now hangs just outside of Adam's room in the dorm.

One of the things that Adam really worked hard on was scheduling and organizing our “senior” portraits. He spent a good amount of time on the phone with the photographer, setting up our sittings, and then coordinating the efforts to insure we would have our class composite before we left the seminary for good. When they arrived during our last week in the seminary, it was in conjunction with the letter that Mr. & Mrs. Crowe sent to all of us. I can remember finishing up a final exam and picking up my composite and the letter. I went back to my room, read the letter, and broke down. The hurt was still fresh and the picture and the letter brought that out all over again. Tears flowed freely. (As I look over this update, I can look up at that picture on the wall of my office here at the Rectory.)

A few days later, the final school day of the Transitional Deacon Class of 2009 at Saint Charles outside the center of the House on the Upper Side, we had our “Clap Out.” To give you a bit of background, when Adam and I and all of us participated in Cassock Day back in October of 2003, we were formally welcomed into the community of Saint Charles. It was a long-standing tradition. The upperclassmen formed two lines and the “New Men” walked down the center in our cassocks (clerical attire) for the first time. We were “clapped in” and welcomed into the community. At the other end of the spectrum, the Deacons are traditionally “clapped out” after their exams are completed. For us, that day was May 1st. The seminary community assembled. The bell in the Immaculate Conception Chapel was rung and each of us walked out one by one. We discussed it among ourselves and with Fr. Welsh, the Dean of Men, and we wanted Adam to be remembered and clapped out with the rest of us. Msgr. Prior, the Rector, said a few words and then asked me to ring the bell for Adam. There was a moment of silence and a few shed tears, which erupted into claps and cheers. Those moments were rough for Gene, Steve, and me, as well as for all the guys who knew Adam well.

As I said, Adam was just 26 years old and would have been ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 2009. I ask you to continue to pray for his parents, Larry and Theresa, his two older brothers, Darren and Kevin, and his twin sister, Erin. Today, almost ten years later, it continues to be a rough journey for them. I called Mrs. Crowe early this afternoon just to let her know I was thinking about them, praying for them, and to let them know Adam hasn't been forgotten.

Adam was a good friend. He was a gentleman. He was a consensus builder for our class and for the seminary community. He almost always had a smile on his face and had a twinkle in his eyes. Adam was to be a Deacon at my First Mass as a Priest on May 17, 2009 and I had planned to be in Ogdensburg for his Ordination and First Mass two weeks later.

Even today, almost ten years later, I can tell you that there has not been a day since that day in January when Adam hasn’t come to mind. I felt him especially close on my Ordination Day on May 16th and at my First Mass on May 17th … and it may have been almost ten years ago, but it seems like yesterday. Even now, there is not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

During those first few days and weeks, I often found myself wanting to go down and knock on Adam’s door … to head over to Borders, take a study break, or just spend some time talking. Today, every now and then I’d like to pick up the phone and call him. I know in its simplest form, prayer is a conversation between friends. I “talk” to Adam every day, but it isn’t the same.

I've also had the opportunity to go back to the Wynnewood area and I've had the chance to visit some our old haunts. The Borders in Wynnewood and the one by Villanova University are both gone … the former is now a furniture store while the latter is empty. Our favorite place for ice cream “Maggie Moo’s” is gone. One of the restaurants we used to frequent, “Vinny T’s” is gone. It looks like it was replaced with a Bucca di Bepa, which is also closed now. John Henry’s Pub is still there. I remembered going there with all of Adam’s friends and Diocesan brothers … Gene, Steve, Joel, Danny, Ben, Jamie, Tom, Scott, Nick, Ryan, and myself toasting and remembering our friend that first night. Emotions can still run high for a few moments when I think about him. Unfortunately, the changed reality of things around the seminary reflects the changed reality of life. Things will never be the same.

Thank you, Adam for your continued friendship. I know you are doing well where you are and I hope you’ll continue to listen. I’m sure you know that you are missed.

Other Articles about Adam:

Death of a Seminarian

Homily given at the Memorial Mass of Deacon Adam S. Crowe by Cardinal Justin Rigali

When a Seminarian Dies ...

God Had Other Plans for Him

Obituary - Find a Grave

#adam #crowe #classmate #seminarian

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