Father Richard Milligan, formerly of Flagstaff, died unexpectedly Feb. 13, 2010. He was 76. He was born June 17, 1933, in Aragon, N.M., a small farming community near the Arizona border.
He received his vocation at an early age and was only 15 when he went to St. Thomas Seminary in Denver. He received his master's degree in 1960 and was ordained by Most Rev. Bernard T. Espelage, OFM (Diocese of Gallup) in June of that year. His first appointment was to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Flagstaff, where he began his graduate studies.
Two years later, he moved to Winslow, where he was associate pastor of St. Joseph's Parish, as well as chaplain to the sisters there. He became administrator of St. Joseph's in 1967, where he served for two more years before moving back to Flagstaff to become pastor of St. Pius X, where he remained until 1984.
In 1970, Father Milligan also became a member of the Priests' Advisory Board for Vocations. At the forefront of the Cursillo movement, Father Milligan was instrumental in its introduction to Arizona and served as Diocesan Director of Cursillo at Bishop Espelage's request for eight years.
Father Milligan moved to Phoenix in 1985 to start St. Luke's Parish. Last month at the 25th anniversary celebration Mass, he recalled celebrating the first Mass of the parish with a small group of new parishioners, in his driveway, which he referred to as the "carport cathedral." Due largely to his tireless leadership, the church grew, and now includes a complex of buildings. He took pride in announcing that all debt was paid off two years ago.
Known for his approachable manner and gentle humor, Father Milligan touched uncounted lives. He will be remembered for his leadership by example, his inspirational yet candid homilies, and his self-deprecating style. Father Milligan never scolded or judged; he often reminded people that he was simply a fellow Catholic on the journey of faith, flawed and yet dedicated to serving God the best he could. He recently stated that during his priesthood, he had baptized more than 4,000 new Catholics, many of them infants.
Father Milligan is survived by his sisters, Rose Chavez and Sister Adelia Milligan; and his brothers, Daniel and John Milligan.
Visitation will be Sunday, Feb. 21, from 5 to 10 p.m., and Monday, Feb. 22, from 8 to 11 a.m., with rosary at 10 a.m., at St. Luke's Church. A funeral Mass will be Monday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., at St. Luke's Church. Inurnment will be at Desert Hills Memorial Park, Scottsdale.
Hansen Desert Hills Mortuary is handling the arrangements.