Paulist Father Richard J. Colgan, who served in the Archdiocese of Washington since 2011 as director of novices for the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (the Paulist Fathers), died on May 25 from complications due to COVID-19. He was 68 years old.

As the religious order’s novice director, Father Colgan oversaw seminarians during their first year at St. Paul’s College, the community’s house of formation in Washington, D.C. He also served as assistant director of formation, in which he guided all the seminarians on their path to priestly ordination and their studies. 

Father Eric Andrews, the president of the Paulists, said Father Colgan was known for his jolly spirit, his love for people and his deep faith. “There is no way you couldn’t love Paulist Father Rich Colgan. To say that he was one of the most beloved members of the community would not be an overstatement,” he said in a statement to the Catholic Standard

“Father Rich was always there, always affirming, always caring and always smiling...There will be a big void in our community, but I am trusting Father Rich will look after us, and will badger the Holy Spirit to send us more Paulists like himself,” Father Andrews wrote.

In 1975, Father Colgan made his first promises to the Paulist Fathers and was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1979. Founded in 1858 as the first American men’s religious community, the Paulist Fathers’ mission is to preach the Gospel and bring converts to the Catholic Church through the order’s service in parishes, publishing, downtown information centers, campus ministries at secular universities, as well as using radio, television and social media to evangelize the Catholic faith.

In his first priestly assignment, Father Colgan served as a campus minister at Clemson University in South Carolina until 1983. The following year, he served in the same post at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. For three years, from 1984 to 1987, he was the order’s associate novice master based at the Paulist novitiate in in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, while also assisting at Paulist Press until 1987. 

Throughout his 41 years as a Paulist priest, Father Colgan served in several parishes and Paulist Centers in the United States and Canada. From 1987 to 1990, he served as associate pastor of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, where he also worked as a chaplain at Roosevelt Hospital, ministering to patients with HIV/AIDS. He later served as pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Toronto, Canada and at Toronto’s Catholic Information Center.  From 1993 to 1997, he returned to campus ministry, serving at the Newman Center and as associate pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Minneapolis, Minn. His next assignment was as associate director of the Paulist Center in Boston, Mass. until 2003.

From 2004 to 2008, Father Colgan served as pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Portland, Oregon. In 2008, he returned to Toronto, where he was named pastor of St. Peter’s Church, where he served until his appointment as director of novices in 2011. In his assignments, Father Colgan’s ministry included outreach to young adults; Catholics with same-sex attraction; Spanish-speaking Catholics; as well as separated and divorced Catholics. 

Father Colgan had been undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma when he became ill with COVID-19. He passed away at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., and is the first Paulist Father to die from complications of the coronavirus disease.

Father Colgan is survived by his mother, Marguerite; two sisters; two brothers; their spouses; and several nieces and nephews.