WEBMASTER NOTE: This tribute to Fr. Repole was posted on the web site Oct. 12, 2011. He passed away Oct. 18, 2011. Requiem mass was offered Oct. 21 in the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, Yonkers. At bottom of this page is a link to a "Fond Farewell to Father Charlie" (obit) page that, in turn, links to 16 "Farewell, Fr. Charlie" photos of the funeral.
Father/Friar Charles Repole, who has been a friend of the DOC family for 45 years, didn't march in the 2011 Columbus Day Parade as he often did with the NYCD contingent in by-gone years.
Of course, when he first began marching in the parade with Correction's Columbia Association in the later half of the 1960s, the holiday was still being celebrated on the actual anniversary of the first recorded sighting of the New World by Columbus' expedition -- October 12th. The second-Monday-in-October observance started in 1971.
At 96, "Father Charlie" is pretty much restricted these days to the environs of the Queen of Peace nursing home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Queens Village.
But within those comforting confines, he remains mobile and alert.
On his 75th Religious Jubilee, celebrating his reception into the Capuchin Franciscan Order August 27, 1936, he was the guest of honor at informal gathering of family and friends in the Queen of Peace Residence.
"A sizable company of friars, friends, and relatives came to Queen of Peace, a Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in Queens Village, to recognize Capuchin Fr. Charles Repole, who entered the fraternity on this day in 1936.
"He is 96 years of age, nearly as old as me and the three other postulants combined.
"He was a missionary in the Bluefields region of Nicaragua to the Miskito people.
"He wrote the first and, to anybody's knowledge, only Miskito-English dictionary.
"For many years he and his late brother, Celsus, who was also a Capuchin priest, were inseparable.
"It is customary for senior friars to live their retirement in community at St. Clare Friary in Yonkers, but Brother Charlie cannot be slowed down, so he has opted to live at Queen of Peace and serve as chaplain and pastoral minister at large to the retired clergy and religious who now reside there.
"To honor God, who has accompanied Brother Charlie in every step of a life given in response to his vocation, the friars held a Mass of thanksgiving in the nursing home chapel, followed by a lunch and reception.
"We the postulants were calculating how old we would be if and when we reached our 75th anniversary of religious life and speculating who would be there to celebrate with us.
"Oh, blessed are the blithe in spirit!"
Eight years ago, upon the 60th anniversary of Fr. Repole's becoming a priest, the DOC Correction Captains Association's Fall 2003 quartery newsletter devoted a photo and informative story about the celebration honoring this long-time CCA friend.
"Father Charles Repole, former DOC chaplain and long-time friend of the CCA, celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at a Mass and a dinner in his honor on June 21st at the Sacred Heart Church in Yonkers.
"Father Repole, who is a Capuchin friar, served as a missionary from 1944 to 1964 in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua where he ministered to the Miskito people and compiled the first English/Spanish/Miskito dictionary in history.
"On his return to the United States, Father Repole served as a chaplain at the French Hospital in Manhattan and from 1966 to 1979 at the Women's House of Detention on Riker Island.and at St. Rose's Home.
"From 1984 to 1995 he was based in the Bridgeport Diocese and then returned to Yonkers, where he continues his preaching ministry and assists at local parishes.
"And as busy as he remains, he can still br found fraternizing with his friends, the Correction Captains, at parades and other civic events.
"The CCA rejoices with Father Repole in celebration of his long life of service to humankind and looks forward to his continuing presence at DOC events."
Internet reseach came up with a Capuchin Franciscans St. Mary Province web site photo of Fr. Repole's 60th anniversary as a priest in a PDF celebrating another friar's 50th anniversary in the religious life, Brother Christopher Varley.
Details in the Varley PDF cleared up an ID question about someone in another Father Charlie photo, this one in the picture collection of former DOC chaplain, Brother Timothy F. MacDonald, also a Capuchin friar.
2 Rikers Friars: Repole & MacDonald.
The 8th photo in the 16-image album features DOC Chaplain MacDonald holding a framed NYPD certificate and flanked by fellow "Chaplains Chris and Charlie." Chaplain Chris is not otherwise identified in Bro. MacDonald's note for that picture.
Neither does "Chris" appear again in any other photos from MacDonald's DOC chaplaincy years. However, the Varley PDF notes that Bro. Christoper's services on behalf of the Lower East Side's 7th Precinct and as the Auxiliary Police's first Catholic chaplain earned him a NYPD award. The PDF includes a photo of him in his Police Auxiliary chaplain's uniform. The two likenesses match (see below).
The background story for the circuitous route leading to that information begins in tropical Nicaragua where the Franciscan friar had labored nearly two decades, only to watch later from the U.S. as the Sandinista government waged what the bishops collectively condemned as a war against the Church in that country.
CMF's December 2010 newsletter ran blurbs on five Council Members, including Charlie. The introduction noted that, "Council members advise CMF on its work, as each has lived and suffered under Communism in various countries of the world, often persecuted. We honor and respect the following five council members today . . .
"Rev. Charles Repole, OFM Cap served as a devoted missionary for 20 years to the Miskito Indians in Nicaragua, sharing with them many hardships and deprivations of the poor Indian population.
"He laboriously and brilliantly prepared a trilingual dictionary in English, Spanish, and Miskito for their advancement.
"But, within five years the Communists had taken over Nicaragua, exiled Fr. Repole and destroyed all religious chapels."
Digging a little deeper into the CMF newsletter archives resulted in finding a photo and story explaning the Fr. Repole-Mother Teresa connection. The February 2004 issue reported:
"Greetings from CMF Council Fr. Charles Repole O.F. M. Cap, who was in Rome for the Pope's 25th Anniversary celebration and for the Beatification of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
"Here is the astonishing photograph of Pope John Paul II greeting. Fr. Repole!
"Fr. Repole has celebrated 58 years as a priest including 19 years as a missionary in Nicaragua serving the Miskito Indians. He traveled by horseback and canoe. slept on floors and in hammocks, sometimes went to bed hungry.
"When he returned to the U.S.. he served as chaplain for 15 years at the Women's Prison on Rikers Island. East River.
"Two of Mother Teresa’s nuns helped him every Saturday: one day Mother Teresa visited the prison and Fr. received from her a medal which she unpinned from her habit for him.
"At 85 years young. Fr. Repole continues to conduct retreats and missions in Spanish throughout the U.S."
Awareness of the background sketched above helps explain the existence of a photo showing Mother Teresa and Fr. Repole laughing and smiling, respectively. That photo appeared on a sign (right) held aloft during a street-level protest at the Empire State Building over its management's refusal to light the top floors' exterior with her colors -- blue and white -- in observance of the 100th anniversary of her birth date: August 26, 1910.
Wall Street Journal reporter Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, writing on her WSJ blog India Real Time, noted:
"Retiree Al Tockman held up a placard with a picture of Mother Teresa talking to Father Charles Repole, a priest from Queens Village in New York. Mr. Repole, 95, couldn’t join the gathering for health reasons.
Evidentially Mr. Tockman intended his "we" to include Fr. Repole for that ocassion celebrating the anniversary of Mother Tersea's day of birth 100 years earlier.
Likewise, our "we" is intended to include Father Charlie for this ocassion when we celebrate the anniversary of the Columbus expedition's discovery of the Americas on this day, October 12th, 519 years ago.