To know Bob Piercy was to know an energetic man with a passion for music, liturgy, and involving children in their faith. It was to know a man who was the life of any event but drew out the gifts of those around him.
Robert W. Piercy, Jr., resource development facilitator for Liturgy Training Publications, liturgical musician, and former parish music and liturgy director, died Thursday, March 17, 2011, in his home.
As friends and family mourn Piercy, they will delight each other with stories that recall his parish involvement, endless conversations, and his heroism as he battled cancer. They will be stories in which all will delight. And they will be stories in which only the man that children called "Mr. Bob" could star. Those stories will be evidence that Bob left what friend and Ascension Church pastoral associate Vicky Tufano called "an indelible mark" on those around him.
Mary Alice Roth, liturgist at St. Julie Billiart, Tinley Park, Illinois, is adjusting to life without her friend and former co-worker. "I can't believe that the world does not have Bob in it anymore," she said. She recalled that, though Bob was in his 20s while music and liturgy director at St. Julie's from 1985 to 1990, he transformed the parish. "He just really made a lasting impression on a lot of people," she said. Among his accomplishments were the cantor program he started, the work with the children's choir, and transformation of the funeral ministry. "He was so on fire with what he believed. It was catching. It really was."
Roth recalled a man who not only captivated people with his ideas but helped others see the gifts that they could offer to the Church. "He would see something in you, and he would encourage you," she said.
Noting the imprint that Bob had on her life, liturgical musician and author Denise La Giglia, Orland Park, Illinois, attributed her writing and the courage she mustered to give talks to Piercy. "There were so many experiences and opportunities to minister that I never would have had without Bob," she said.
She added that he also taught her how to prepare to die. "I know that one of the things that I noticed in Bob's diminishing and dying was that he was open to mending relationships, reaching out, and moving toward forgiveness. He had foibles along the way, but he was always open to growing. I think he modeled how to be in the process of dying."
Bob's liturgical and catechetical co-workers knew that his ideas were overflowing. "He had a million ideas and an enthusiasm that was boundless, said Kate Dooley, OP, who worked with him on religious education and catechetical projects. "He was a man of deep faith," she said, adding, "He loved life and all that it entailed. He was a great friend and will be missed."
He was a catechetical speaker who held his audience in rapt attention. Author Kathy Coffey said, "I always thought it was fascinating that audiences' faces would light up, and they would be engaged.
Even as a teen, he could take the stage with little notice. Ascension Elementary School Principal Mary Jo Burns first met Bob when he was 17 and involved with the play. When the male lead of No, No, Nanette had to withdraw from the play a week before opening night, Bob took on the role. Years later, Burns worked with Piercy while putting on programs for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office of Catholic Schools. "He would just draw gifts out of people – for ministry, the Church, and one another," she said. "Even if you didn't know you had them, he would tell you about them and help you find a way to use them."
Mary Gleason, IBVM, was inspired by him until his last days. She told of how he prayed in his rocking chair at a window in his small apartment. He told her that spot filled him with an awareness and the warmth of God's presence.
She told, too, of a cross that contained a hole that Bob used in retreats. That hole told how people cannot go around suffering but must go through it, she said.
"I'm so aware that Bob is on the other side enjoying the beauty and wonder of it all—God!"
Survivors are his parents, Rosemarie and Robert W. Piercy, Sr., sisters Debbie Shimek, Judy Piercy, Mary Ann Piercy and Patty Cushing, and brother Tom Piercy.