Jesuit Father Armand Nigro, a priest for more than 50 years, is losing his memories.
He’s open about it. Eloquent, in fact.
“When I was told that I was in dementia, and it was the Alzheimer’s kind, well gee, of all the diseases this is the one I would have feared the most, because you die before you die. And before you die, you’re a burden on everyone else,” Fr. Nigro says.
Nigro is letting each day unfold. He’s always been fairly mellow, earning him the nickname “The Mister Rogers of the Jesuits,” after the gentle-spirited pastor who hosted the public television children’s show.
Nigro is calm, but others are eager to capture his wisdom before it’s too late.
Catherine Reimer, who met Nigro at Seattle University in the early 1960s, and her husband, John, will soon complete five hourlong video interviews with Nigro about his life and ministry.
They are collecting written memories and photos of Nigro for The Ministry Institute, which Nigro cofounded in 1981 as Mater Dei, a seminary for men called to the priesthood later in life.
One such memory? The happiest day of his life: Nigro was ordained a Jesuit in 1956 at St. Aloysius Church. Nigro, who suffered with health problems in the seminary, said he had a premonition he would never live to be ordained.
Even at the altar, he thought: “I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this.”
He did. “I knelt down a layman and stood up a priest,” he said.