September 14, 2016 // Local

Pastor of Culver flock passes away from cancer

By Stephanie A. Patka

On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Culver — usually a quiet time around the parish of St. Mary of the Lake — dozens of people gathered, during the first few hours of visitation, to remember the life of pastor Father Jeffery Largent, who passed away on Sept. 8.

“He was a true priest,” stated longtime parishioner and friend Judy Deery. “His vocation was the main thing in his life, and his first priority was the Mass. He loved saying it, and you knew it.”

Father Largent, pastor of the parish, passed away at his Culver home after his second battle with cancer. He died peacefully, surrounded by his close friends.

Present at his passing was Joan Lupa, a parishioner of St. Monica’s in Mishawaka, who went to high school with Father Largent. She remembers reconnecting with him when he was assigned to her family’s parish.

“I remembered his sense of humor from high school and didn’t know that he had become a priest. But right from the beginning, when our son’s illness overwhelmed our family, he was always there for us, helping us through so many trials and tribulations. It was amazing. He was such a generous person.”

Lupa’s husband, Jerry, agreed. “He was a very, very good friend to our family. I remember how he arranged for the care of a family in our parish after a huge tragedy. It was just another example of his compassion, and speaks volumes as to what he was like as a human being and as a priest.”

Father Largent was born Jeffery Alan Largent on June 23, 1957, in South Bend, the first of four children of Arthur A. and Florence J. (McGreevey) Largent. He is survived by his mother, still of South Bend; brother Steve Largent, South Bend; sister Nancy (Chuck) Largent-Campbell, Powell, Ohio; and David (Carol) Largent, Kennesaw, Ga.  Seven nieces and nephews also survive. He was preceded in death by his father.

He attended primary school at St. Anthony de Padua and graduated from John Adams High School in 1975. As young children, his sister remembered how all the siblings would play pretend Mass.

“He would set up a cedar chest and a cloth draped over it like an altar,” she fondly recalled. “Jeff would be the priest and would make us come up for communion using candy wafers for hosts. I knew that he was going to be a priest.”

After completing college course studies at IUSB, he entered St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. He also studied at North American College in Rome, Italy, and was an altar server for then-Pope John Paul II. He was ordained to the priesthood on Aug. 4, 1984, at Saint Matthew Cathedral, South Bend, by then-Bishop William McManus. During his priesthood, Father Largent also served the diocese as a principal and teacher of theology.

In his 32 years as a priest, Father Largent served several parishes throughout the diocese: St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne; St. Mary, Decatur; St. Andrew/St. Hyacinth, Fort Wayne; St. Patrick, Fort Wayne; St. Rose, Monroeville; St. Thomas the Apostle, Elkhart; St. Monica, Mishawaka; St. Therese, Little Flower, South Bend; and for over 12 nonconsecutive years, St. Mary of the Lake, Culver. He also served as chaplain of the Indiana State Police and Culver Military Academy.

Long-time friend Colleen Comiskey and her husband, Kurt, first met Father Largent when he first came to Culver 24 years ago. She recalled how her wedding was the first one he presided over at the parish. From that point on, Father Largent became close friends with her family, making a large impact on her children.

“He was always very disciplined. If you were ever to meet my children, you would notice that they have certain qualities because of what he taught them: respect, kindness and always to follow the Commandments,” she stated. “He brought out the best in them.” She also recalled how Father Largent would involve the youth at the parish during the Children’s Mass at Christmas and Easter, bringing them up around the altar and sitting to talk to them for the homily.

Father Largent enjoyed cooking and entertaining for friends, parishioners at his parishes and the state police. He was an avid dog lover and adopted three Airedales, who are now deceased. He had just recently adopted a Welsh Terrier.

But greater than his passion for his hobbies was Father Largent’s passion for bringing the sacraments to his flock. More than one story was told on Sept. 11 about how he often arrived late to the hospital room to visit one of his parishioners, because he would stop and tend to the spiritual needs of others along the way.

“He had only a few words for his homilies; maybe they were five minutes long, but they were so well-thought out that his message was something that you would think about for the rest of the week,” Comiskey mentioned. She also recalled how, even in his last days, Father Largent wanted so badly to say Mass. The weekend before he went into this hospital he was able to be present up on the altar for the last Mass at his parish. Despite his weakened state, Father Largent was able to perform his last baptism, at the hospital, only four days before he died.

His dry sense of humor and ability to befriend any stranger that came across his path allowed Father Largent to leave a legacy of compassion and caring for others. He was often able to bring people to Mass who were not Catholic, and to persuade different Christian denominations to work together for the needy in the local community.

Deery commented: “There have to be so many people out there who were touched by his life. When you say, ‘what would Jesus do?’ Well, Father Largent went out and did it.”

“He was a great priest and a great friend,” added Comiskey. “He was loyal to his family, his faith and quietly showed generosity and kindness wherever he went.”

Visitation and a prayer service for Father Largent took place on Sunday, Sept. 11 at St. Mary of the Lake parish. Visitation continued and a rosary took place on Monday, Sept. 12. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial on Sept. 13 at Culver Military Academy Chapel. Father Largent was buried in Culver Washington Cemetery.

The funeral arrangements for Father Largent were as follows:

Sunday, September 11, 2016
St. Mary of the Lake Church, Culver, IN
Visitation: 2-6 p.m.
Evening Prayer of the Dead: 6 p.m.

Monday, September 12, 2016
St. Mary of the Lake Church, Culver, IN
Visitation: 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.
Rosary: 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Culver Military Chapel, Culver, IN
Mass of Christian Burial 11 a.m.
The Burial will be in Culver Washington Cemetery

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