September 28, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Remembering a true shepherd of people
Mary DeTurris Poust
(Courtesy photo of CINDY SCHULTZ)
For several years, my office in the chancery at the Diocese of Albany was right next door to that of Father David LeFort, who died Aug. 31 at the age of 55. He used to enter the chancery whistling or humming, popping in to say good morning, often in Italian, before getting down to the business of the day, which was always substantial.
News of Father LeFort’s death came as a shock, and I found myself shaken by what seemed like an impossibility. Although I hadn’t seen Father LeFort since leaving my position 18 months prior, we had worked side-by-side on so many challenging projects — along with the rest of the leadership team — that it was hard to fathom the permanent absence of his unwavering loyalty and dedication to his vocation, to the Diocese, and to our bishop. I had a front-row seat to the non-stop effort he put into everything he was tasked with juggling in his position as Vicar General.
Although he was one of my supervisors, we could argue like siblings, going toe to toe on issues we both felt strongly about. At the end of the day — or maybe the next day when things were particularly prickly — we would come back around as if nothing had happened, roll up our sleeves and get back to work. I knew he always had my back, and he made a critical difference in my professional life multiple times during my tenure. If I needed something important, really needed something, I could go to him, and I knew he would listen and do what he could to help. That’s something for which I will always be grateful, something I will never forget. And isn’t that what any of us would hope for when we leave this earth? That someone somewhere would think of us as having made a difference not just in a general way but in a personal way.
It’s not always easy to realize how we might be affecting people when we’re going through the motions. There’s a good chance Father LeFort never realized the impact he was making on the lives of those around him. All any of us can do is keep caring, moving forward, picking ourselves up when we get off track, and starting again every time we find ourselves beaten down by what life often doles out.
One of my favorite memories I have of Father LeFort was when he shared with me a moment from his life as a boy growing up on a farm. He looked after the sheep; they knew his voice, he said, and he could lay down on the ground among them, and they would not leave his side. I remember telling him how perfect it was, then, that he was called to be a shepherd of people.
Back in 2018, when I helped arrange an interview with the Times Union for a Faces of Faith feature on Father LeFort for the Saturday religion page, he said this about his vocation and his faith:
“I’ve found over and over that my deep joy is what invites others to experience my faith and the faith of the Catholic Church,” he told the Times Union. “I’m confident God loves me — and every other human person in all of creation — with a very particular love, which strengthens me, encourages me, consoles and comforts me. It’s that love that keeps challenging me to proclaim the gift of God to all.”
If you spent any time with Father LeFort, you had no doubt about his deep devotion to his vocation to the priesthood. It was who he was, with all his being. He was asked to do many things far beyond that original calling, as is the case for most of our priests in order to keep our parish and diocesan operations running, but at his core, he was first and foremost a priest and a beloved child of God — both shepherd and sheep. He will be missed. Rest in peace.
Mary DeTurris Poust is a writer, retreat leader and spiritual director living in Delmar. Visit her website at www.NotStrictlySpiritual.com.