Father James Lee Rizer Council #6828
Early in the summer of 1976, a group of men came together at the urging of Father Anthony Warner, the first resident pastor of St. Bede, to form the 6828th Council of the Knights of Columbus. It was initiated on August 19, 1976 as St. Bede Council 6828 with 35 charter members. The Council has grown from 35 members in August of 1976 to over 300 at present.
Parochial Vicar Father James Lee Rizer came to St. Bede in 1977 and was a staunch supporter of the St. Bede Council. He was well-liked and respected by the Council and soon after his death in June 1989, the Council name was changed to Father James Lee Rizer Council.
James Lee Rizer, Jr. was born on April 1, 1908 in Towanda, Pennsylvania to Helen (Nellie) M. Meehan Rizer and James Lee Rizer, Sr. Rev. Rizer was graduated from St. Agnes High School there. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Notre Dame University in 1931 and attended the Graduate School of Business Administration at New York University for one year. Prior to World War II and for a short time afterwards, he was sales representative for Laidlow Brothers in New York City.
After the death of her husband, James L. Rizer, Sr., Rev. James Lee Rizer’s mother entered the Visitation Order in 1944 and pronounced her perpetual vows in the cloistered community May 1, 1948. She served as Sister Mary Andrea, VHM. Another son, Father Kenneth Rizer, was pastor of Assumption Church, Keyser, West Virginia.
He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in March 1942 and was later commissioned second lieutenant at the Statistical School of Harvard University. He served as liason officer for the Air Forces in North Africa for six months and for 18 months was staff personnel officer with the rank of captain with the 15th Air Force in Italy. He completed his theological studies at Mount Saint Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Rev. James Lee Rizer was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Richmond on Ascension Thursday, May 18, 1950 in the chapel of Monte Maria Convent of the Visitation Sisters in Richmond, Virginia. He mother, Helen (Nellie) M. Meehan Rizer (Sister Mary Andrea, VHM) a cloistered nun, and his brother, Rev. Kenneth M. Rizer, a priest of the Diocese of Richmond were in attendance.
The Most Rev. Peter L. Ireton, Bishop of Richmond officiated at the Monte Maria ceremony and was assisted at the ordination by Rev. Frances J. Byrne, Rev. Carroll T. Dozier, and Rev. Chester Michael. Rev. Justin D. McClunn, J.C.D., vice chancellor, was master of ceremonies.
Father Rizer’s first assignment was with the former Diocesan Mission Band, a team of priests that travelled to rural areas of the diocese where there was no Catholic presence. Other parishes in which he served include: Our Lady of Nazareth, Roanoke; St. Mary Star of the Sea, Fort Monroe; St. Mary’s, Alexandria; St. Patrick’s, Richmond; Blessed Sacrament, Norfolk; St. Bede, Williamsburg; and St. Elizabeth’s, Richmond, where he served as pastor from 1969 to 1972.
Father Rizer was a retired diocesan priest in residence at the rectory of Holy Cross Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, when he died on June 9, 1989 in a Roanoke hospital. He was 81.
Father Rizer suffered a heart attack at the rectory on June 4 and had been moved to Roanoke where he had surgery. He had remained active in his ministry of visiting the sick until two weeks before his death. He was preceded in death by a brother, Father Kenneth Rizer who died March 12, 1974. Their widowed mother had entered the Visitation Sisters at Monte Maria Monastery in Richmond at age 65 where she served as Sister Mary Andrea until she died at age 80.
A Mass of Resurrection was celebrated June 12, 1989 at Holy Cross, Lynchburg with Bishop Walter Sullivan presiding. Burial was at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
Persons who knew him all through his priestly years knew him as a man with a sense of humor and for his care of the sick and generosity to those in need. Care of the sick was the hallmark of his priestly ministry. No matter the day or the hour, Father Jim could be found praying at the beds of the sick, walking the hospital corridors, and visiting the home bound. He touched the lives of the parishioners at every assignment.
His ministry and his message was always about God's love and was one of loving care. He always came with a smile and that wonderful sense of humor, which would brighten up the day for the suffering, give hope to the downtrodden, and bring new life to the anguished. Simply put, he was loved because he cared.
Through his whole life, he exemplified the love of Christ, which he experienced in his own life and brought the same love to others with dedication and commitment.