Rick and Peggy Parker on their wedding day in 1973.

The Franciscan connection runs deep, regardless of the path one takes in life.

Such was the case for Rick Parker, who attended the former St. Francis Seminary during his freshman and sophomore years in high school in the mid-1960s. Although God ultimately called Rick to be a loving husband, father and grandfather, he never forgot that early Franciscan formation, the friars’ faith and their commitment to serving those most in need.  

Rick met his wife, Peggy, at the Catholic Newman Center when they were both students at the University of Cincinnati. “His faith was always so important to him,” Peggy said, recalling that the young couple attended Sunday Mass together with many of their friends. They were married on Dec. 22, 1973.

In addition to his Catholic faith, “The Franciscans also remained important to him over the years,” she noted. “Rick had so many fond memories of his time at the seminary, enjoyed reading the Franciscans’ newsletter and always supported them. When we went to Italy in 2018, visiting Assisi was a very special thing for him.”  

“I think Dad’s time in the seminary with the Franciscans is where his faith became so deeply ingrained,” said Rick’s daughter, Amanda Thalhammer.

Rick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, devastating news for him and his family. As always, said Peggy, they relied on their faith for strength and comfort. “Faith carries you through the most difficult times and the most wonderful times of your life and is a reminder of how blessed we are that God gave us such a beautiful family.”  

One of Rick’s priorities after the diagnosis was to dance with his beloved Peggy on their 50th anniversary in December. “Dad was really driven by this,” Amanda said. “When we realized that wasn’t going to be an option, I knew I had to make it happen for him.”

With little time to plan, Amanda organized a 50th anniversary party for Rick and Peggy at her family’s home in June. Knowing of her father’s fondness for the Franciscans, she reached out to her friend, Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU, communications director for St. John the Baptist Province, to see if she knew of a friar who would be available to attend the party to renew her parents’ vows and provide a blessing. In turn, Eileen contacted Provincial Vicar Bill Farris, who embraced the opportunity.  

Bill Farris and Rick Parker smile as Rick’s granddaughters, Emilia and Lily, approach at the start of the vow renewal ceremony.

“When Eileen asked for help in finding a friar to participate in Rick and Peggy’s 50th anniversary family event, two things prompted me to respond,” Bill said. “The first was the memory of my parents’ (Jim and Alice) 50th anniversary celebration, which was followed a few months later by my dad’s sudden death. I identified with an added layer of sadness brought about by Rick’s serious illness. Rick was in the class behind me at the minor seminary and left before graduation, but the connection spoke to me. We both enjoyed going over some old seminary yearbooks and identifying classmates we remembered.”  

On a beautiful, sunny afternoon, in the presence of their loved ones, including friends of more than 50 years, Rick and Peggy renewed their love for and commitment to each other and received a blessing from Bill. Those in attendance then raised their glasses in a toast, with many wiping away tears as the couple danced to “Precious and Few.”  

“Having Father Bill there made renewing our vows very, very precious. We’re very grateful to him,” Peggy said. “It also solidified that marriages can make it through anything because of the love, support and faith you share.”  

Bill celebrates Rick and Peggy’s faith and commitment to one another.

“It was so special,” Amanda said. “You could just feel the love all around.”  

As guests enjoyed a delicious meal, Rick and Bill shared memories over yearbooks from St. Francis Seminary. “That was very special for Rick, too, and he really enjoyed his time with Father Bill,” said Peggy. 

Rick lost his battle with cancer on July 17. His family, friends and others whose lives Rick had touched gathered for his Mass of Christian Burial at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church on July 27. Fr. Tom Bolte, former pastor, presided, with Fr. Kevin Flaherty, SJ, Rick’s cousin, and Bill as con-celebrants. During his homily, Fr. Bolte spoke of Rick’s love for the Franciscans. Honoring Rick’s request to incorporate the Prayer of St. Francis into the Mass, it was used as the offertory hymn, as his grandchildren, Emilia and Lily Thalhammer and Owen Parker, presented the gifts.  

“It was such a beautiful celebration of Rick’s life,” Peggy said. “It was so special having a diocesan priest, a Jesuit and a Franciscan celebrate the Mass. It was such a blessing, and I know Rick would have absolutely loved it.”