The Reverend Lawrence Thomas Reilly, a senior priest of the Diocese of Yakima, died Monday, July 17, at his home in Kennewick. He was 84. He had different cancers for over 30 years, but he rejected being identified as a cancer patient. His spirituality was communion with the sacrifice of the cross of Christ, for others. The family is grateful to Father Robert Turner and many other brother priests who helped to care for Fr. Reilly in his illness.
Fr. Reilly was born October 24, 1938 in New York, NY, to Lawrence F. and Margaret A. (Walsh) Reilly. The family moved to Richland, where they joined Christ the King Catholic Church. Fr. Reilly received the Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation there, and attended Sacajawea Elementary School and Chief Joseph Junior High School before entering St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore in 1953, graduating in 1958 from both the high school and junior college programs.
Fr. Reilly studied philosophy for three years at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, then studied theology at the American College in Louvain, Belgium from 1960 to 1964. He later studied Moral Theology at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada from 1969 to 1971, earning a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.
Fr. Reilly was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Dougherty at Christ the King on June 28, 1964, offering his first Mass of Thanksgiving that evening at the parish. His first assignment was as associate pastor, along with Fr. Richard Keolker, also of the Tri-Cities, at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, under the direction of the pastor, now-Monsignor John Ecker.
In 1966, Fr. Reilly began teaching high school full time at St. Peter Seminary in Cowiche. In 1968-69, he was a lecturer at Gonzaga University in Spokane, and served as assistant spiritual director at Bishop White Seminary there. After completing his doctoral studies, he taught for a year at the school in Quebec, then served as a spiritual director at the American College in Louvain until 1975, when he returned to St. Thomas Seminary as a professor of moral theology.
When the seminary closed in 1977, Fr. Reilly became director of the Office of Theology and Ethics for the Providence Health System, serving in that position until 1993. He was a consultant to then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, and also resumed service in the Diocese of Yakima, serving as pastor of St. John Parish in Naches from 1986-87. Assignments from 1993 to 2012 included St. Peter Claver Parish in Wapato, St. Mary Parish in White Swan, St. Peter Parish and Retreat Center in Cowiche, St. Henry Parish in Grand Coulee, and Immaculate Conception Parish in Roslyn and St. John the Baptist Parish in Cle Elum.
For many years Fr. Reilly made presentations in parishes on topics such as medical ethics, drawing on his studies and work in the hospital system. A letter written by him for the Washington State Catholic Conference’s End of Life planning booklet continues to offer clear, straightforward guidance to Catholics for making decisions about their care.
Granted Senior Priest status in July 2012, Fr. Reilly was in residence at St. Andrew Parish in Ellensburg until 2017, when he relocated to the Tri-Cities, where he primarily served at St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick, while continuing to serve on the Diocese Priest Personnel Board. He was known for offering very frank advice to bishops, while also acknowledging other points of view. He also served as a vicar for priests, then an emeritus vicar, providing advice and spiritual direction to many priests of the diocese.
Fr. Reilly was preceded in death by his parents, and two brothers, Brother Kevin Reilly, FCS, a Christian Brother who died in Hawaii two years ago, and Thomas G. (Lyn) Reilly, of Riverside, Alabama, who died in 2012. He is survived by two brothers, Denis (Jan) Reilly of West Richland and Marcus (Dorothy Talbot) Reilly of Seattle.
He is also survived by his nephew Sean (Kim) Reilly, and their sons Ethan and Kyle; his niece Meghan Reilly (Hal) Trotter, and their son Sam and daughter Greer; his nephew Christian (Kimi Kato) Reilly and their daughter Tarn and son Finn; his niece Claire (Dennis Koheni) Reilly; his niece Emily Reilly; and his nephews Evan Reilly and Keefe Reilly.
The Funeral Vigil will be at 7 p.m. Friday, July 21 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 520 S. Garfield Street, in Kennewick. The Funeral Mass will be at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, July 22, at Christ the King Catholic Church, 1111 Stevens Drive, in Richland. Fr. Reilly’s cremated remains will be placed after the Mass near his parents’ graves at Sunset Gardens Cemetery, 915 Bypass Hwy, in Richland.
The Mass will be livestreamed on the parish YouTube channel at this link: https://tinyurl.com/c722ysr5 (@christthekingadultreligiou9146).
Fr. Reilly had a deep and abiding concern for those discerning religious vocations in the Church. Memorials can be made to the Seminarian Education Fund of the Diocese of Yakima, P.O. Box 2189, Yakima, WA 98907.