Poet, priest, missionary passes away at age 82

Father Raymond Guidry, 1928-2011

Guidry,-Fr-Raymond_photo-for-web_June-2011Father Raymond J. Guidry SVD, who served as a priest on four continents, died at Techny, Ill., on Thursday, June 16, 2011. During his career, Father Guidry filled many roles, including missionary, military chaplain, parish priest and poet.

"Ray Guidry had the soul of a poet and the heart of a missionary," said Very Rev. James Pawlicki SVD, provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word U.S. Southern Province. "In a recent email, Bishop Terry Steib wrote that Ray is a legend, hero and role model. He was one of a group of African-American men who joined the Society of the Divine Word in the 1940s. They are a part of history."

Born in Abbeville, La., on July 30, 1928, young Guidry was the fourth of Erastus and Anita (nee Williams) Guidry’s seven children. At age 21, he professed religious vows with the Society of the Divine Word at Techny. In 1957, he was ordained to the priesthood in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

In his first assignment, he was one of eight African-American Divine Word Missionaries working in the Diocese of Accra, Ghana, West Africa, where he served for nine years.

Father Guidry graduated from Army Chaplain School in Fort Hamilton, N.Y. in 1968 before being sent on a tour of duty in Vietnam for a year. During his 20 years as a military chaplain, he rose to the rank of major and also was stationed in West Germany and different parts of the United States.

From 1988 to 1999, he served as a parish priest in Opeloussa, La., and later worked as a hospital chaplain at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston from 1999 to 2002.

A poet and short story writer, Father Guidry frequently contributed to Negro Digest, a popular African-American magazine founded by publishing legend John H. Johnson who later developed Jet, Ebony and Essence.

Father Guidry held a master’s degree in religious education from Fordham University, New York City. He had been living at Techny since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the residence in Mississippi where he and other Divine Word Missionaries lived. Father Guidry is survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews.

Visitation was held on Monday, June 20, at the Techny Residence, followed by the Office of the Dead and a wake service. The funeral Mass with military honors took place on Tuesday, June 21, in the Techny Residence Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for in the name of Father Guidry can be made for the care of retired missionaries and may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.


Black Man
By Rev. Raymond Guidry SVD

Say, Mister
Who are you?
Who me?
A heap of things, son
A heap of things.
I'm Tantalus
Smoldering Vesuvius.
I'm Ulysses
Seeking Ithaca
Country to roam
Open, free, a home
But everywhere the roads are blocked
Doors yield not to a black man's knock.
Then Mister
Why do you sing?
When my lips shape a song
It soothes the hurt
It eases wrong.

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