Thomas Richard Heath, O.P.
Born: June 19, 1920
Professed: May 28, 1944
Ordained: June 10, 1950
Died: January 13, 2005
Father Richard Thomas Heath, O.P., died late in the night of January 13, 2005, in Kisumu, Kenya, Eastern Africa, where he had lived as a member of the St. Martin de Porres Dominican community since 1992. He had been the victim of an attack by robbers at the St. Martin’s compound on January 4, and he eventually died as a result of wounds to his chest that caused pneumonia and blood clots. He was buried in a grave that was dug by the Dominican novices in the cemetery at St. Martin’s House on January 19, following an all night vigil, and a funeral Mass celebrated in the Cathedral by Archbishop Zacheus Okoth of Kisumu in the company of a very large number of priests, sisters and lay people, in addition to his Dominican brothers and sisters from Eastern and Southern Africa.
Rev. Maury Schepers, O.P., the Vicar Provincial for Eastern Africa, wrote the following in a message to the Province on “Fr. Tom Heath’s Passing”:
“Tom really surprised us, for one last time. This morning (January 14) we celebrated Morning Prayer and Eucharist, missing his voice in the third psalm, ‘Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth, serve the Lord with gladness,’ which he always belted out with relish. How we will miss him! Tom has been a pillar of the Vicariate from the very beginning. He was our first Vicar Provincial, and once things got sorted out in Nairobi in 1992 he came out to Kisumu and began a very fruitful ministry, teaching and preaching. The teaching was done mostly in the Regional Seminary for Theology in Tindinyo (about half way between Kisumu and Kakamega). For several years he would spend three days a week there and return to the Community for the other four. Comparisons are odious, but there is no doubt that Tom was the most beloved of all the Brothers in the Vicariate. Young Brothers rallied around him and felt comfortable with him, while the Elders found in him the wisest of counselors. Up until the time he died he was our assistant Novice Master (whereas earlier in South Africa, Lesotho actually, he was in charge of the Novices of that Vicariate for several years). He died in Africa where he wanted to die, and he will be buried here too. …We ache for his loss and ask all the Brothers of the Province to join us in our grief.”
Father Tom was the brother of Father Mark and the late Father Walter Heath, both Dominicans of St. Joseph Province, of Sister Mary Heath, a Maryknoll Sister, and of Mrs. Edward (Leslie) Costello of Winchester, MA. He was a devoted alumnus of Boston College, and had a PhD in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America. He was a translator and commentator for the McGraw Hill translation of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, a contributor to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, and the author of many articles, reviews and poems.