Father Leo Remington

It was 1971, and I was on a relatively new assignment to be a resident at St Elizabeth Parish in SW Portland.  My main job was to be a communications director for the Archdiocese, working at the Chancery office on East Burnside Street.  

My task was to make media contributions to promote the efforts and ambitions of the Archdiocese.  I learned how to make film strips, radio projects, TV shows, and movies.  My predecessor had accumulated a lot of technical gear, some of which I knew how to operate, and many more that I had to learn.  But I was fascinated with all the gadgetry, and I learned and used them quickly.

Remember, this was the early 70s, and nothing was digital.  Think about all the digital computers and applications we have now, and subtract them all, for what I had to work with.  All analog, nothing digital.  And I was alone—no assistants or crew.  (Actually, for one year I had a young Jesuit Volunteer, Mary Beth Onk, who did marvelous work in producing a movie about advocating women for the priesthood.  Unthinkable for the established Church!  This was in 1975, only about ten years after Vatican II Council.)  (And for half a year I had Sr Edith, a religious woman who helped me.)

For my education, I went for two summers to USC in Los Angeles, to learn the basics of making movies.  (While I was there, the other students were talking about a recently graduated student who was making Sci-Fi movies.  His name was George Lucas.)

Just me and all this movie and TV equipment.  I was in Analog Heaven.

I made movies, and TV shows at the various TV studios around Portland, and some slide shows for various parts of the diocese.  

One project was for the Peace Church of the Brethren Protestant church which had a quite talented young minister who composed music and advocated for creation awareness.  We made a TV show named “Dust Song,” with his music and with a teenage ballet dancer, telling viewers about what we humans were doing to our planet and how we needed to reform.  It actually won a prize from the National Religious Programs.

Ir was also the time for the Vietnam War.

I was stationed with a pastor at St Elizabeth, who had a ministry for the hospitals on Portland’s “Pill Hill.”  He was formally an Air Force chaplain, who did proper visitation and pastoral help for people at the various hospitals.  At one point he asked me to formally sign up for the Veteran’s Administration to be an assistant chaplain.  I wasn’t terribly excited about this, but I definitely wanted to minister to the patients at the hospitals.  It was a part of my assignment.

(One anecdote:  I was asked by one patient if I would get him some cigarettes.  I went to a dispenser and got a pack of cigarettes for him.  It cost 35 cents.)

Shortly after doing some ministry at the Veteran’s Hospital, I reported my time and sent a statement to the VA administration.  Then I got a check for $35. 

I had a problem with getting paid for being a part of the war, even with soldiers who were hurt by it.  I just didn’t know what to do with the check for $35.  So, I sent it back to the VA, telling them that I was conscientiously bothered by the US government’s involvement in a foreign war that was hurting soldiers and foreign Asians.  I thought that took care of it all for me.

It didn’t.

A couple of days later, my pastor asked me to come to his office, and he told me that I would be given a new assignment, no longer at St Elizabeth and for the VA administration.  I had an appointment with the Archbishop the next day.

I was hurt, but I knew what I wanted to do and I wasn’t sorry for it.  I showed up at Archbishop Dwyer’s office and sat in front of him, being treated like a naughty boy who was caught doing something terrible.

“I don’t know what to do with you, Father.  I have called some pastors and they don’t want anything to do with you.  Nobody wants you.”

I sat there, not knowing what to do.  It maybe was a bad decision on my part, thinking it would go no further than my return of a dinky check—with a short statement of my motives.

“But I did talk with Bert Griffin, but he said he would take you.”

I was staying with my “naughty little boy” expression on my face, but inside my heart, I was slowly but surely becoming jubilant about working with Fr Griffin!”

I replied, and I responded with a woeful and penitent voice, “Thank you, Archbishop Dwyer.  I will carry on my work as a resident at St Andrew.”

I was fired, and my penance was to be with Fr Griffin and his parishioners.

Fired—and resurrected.