Catholic Herald staff
As Richard “Dick” Lyons gazes across nearly 30 years of service in the Diocese of Superior, several moments rise to the surface of his mind.
He remembers standing in the chancery library with fellow staff members when Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005 — and, through a trick of memory, the collapse of the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, seems to have occurred almost simultaneously.
The director of administrative services and finance recalls his first day of work in the diocese, as superintendent of schools, in July 1987. Josephite Sr. Genevieve Schillo, then director of Christian formation, compelled him to go to a wildlife feast in Lac du Flambeau.
“You will want to do this” was one of her signature phrases, Lyons added. “That was my first introduction to the diocese.”
In his memories, Lyons is always with fellow chancery staff. First, they were celebrating baby showers; now, they are celebrating the births of grandchildren, he said. They’ve been a family, together for a generation.
But, for Lyons, the time has come to move on. Douglas County District Attorney Dan Blank will be shouldering Lyons’ responsibilities as of Jan. 2, and beginning Jan. 15, Lyons will turn his time to personal, rather than professional, pursuits.
Born in Ladysmith, Lyons has a bachelor’s degree from UW-Eau Claire and a master’s degree from UW-River Falls. His entire career has been with the church; he started out teaching at the Catholic school in Bloomer and served as principal at Catholic schools in Cadott and Chippewa Falls, all located in the Diocese of La Crosse, before returning to his home diocese in 1987.
Since his homecoming, Lyons has served as the superintendent of schools; director of pastoral services and planning; director of computer services; director of Catholic formation; director of administrative services; and, since 2012, director of two departments — administrative services and finance.
When he reflects on his retirement, Lyons doesn’t focus on his achievements, such as winning the diocese’s Empowered by the Spirit Award in 2009, an honor infrequently bestowed for exemplary service and dedication. He thinks about the past, present and future.
He is reminded of what one writer on church management said: Every church must make a fundamental decision. They must decide whether the best was in the past, or the best is yet to come
“I think that is a really good point,” Lyons said. “When we look at our church … we are where we are because of the sacrifices of many folks through the years.”
These “giants of our faith” built the local church, he added. “We are called to be the ones that continue the mission and continue it in a positive way. When people look back at 2016, we are going to be the giants of the faith.”
Foremost among those giants are the bishops of the Diocese of Superior, and Lyons has served under three of them: the late Bishop Raphael M. Fliss; Bishop Peter F. Christensen, now of the Diocese of Boise, Idaho; and current Bishop James P. Powers.
“I’ve been privileged and honored to work with three bishops; each has been a unique gift to the diocese,” he said.
Lyons’ other long-term commitment has been to the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, where he’s spent 25 years leading the RCIA program.
“He’s a gifted RCIA teacher who has helped lots of people grow in faith,” Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the cathedral, said of Lyons.
“That’s something I really enjoy doing,” Lyons added.
Whether teaching the faith to adults or exemplifying the faith for kids, Lyons has found his niche in servant leadership.
“The thing that feeds me the most is being able to encourage people … to be the best they can be, to pursue excellence,” he said.
Looking forward, Lyons suspects he’s probably going to keep doing that in some capacity.
“This has been a great staff to work with,” he said, and then corrected himself: “to be with.”
“Personally, I am very grateful for the encouragement, the support, the friendships that have developed over the past 30 years,” he added. “Those are the memories I’m taking with me as I step in a new direction.”
Lyons is unsure where that direction leads. He is drawn to mountains, but he has no plans to move. In fact, the former director of planning has only one ambition: He wants to sit in a chair for two days and figure out which opportunity to pursue.
He’s confident the diocese is in good hands.
“I think Dan Blank is very well qualified to take on the position of director of administrative services for the diocese,” he commented. “I’m pleased the bishop chose him for the position.”
What others are saying about Dick Lyons
“Merriam-Webster defines sage as ‘wise through reflection and experience.’ I have worked with Dick for almost 30 years, and that definition truly sums up of my experience in knowing and working with Dick to bring about the mission of Christ here in our Diocese.”
– Steve Tarnowski, Director of Development
“During my time as vocations director, Dick worked tirelessly to help us figure out budgets and foster a culture of vocations for the diocese.” – Fr. Andrew Ricci, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior
“I will always be grateful to Mr. Lyons for taking a chance when he hired me as his administrative assistant back in 1992. As a ‘stay-at-home’ mother who had not worked outside my home for many years, he made the transition back into the working world very easy for me.
“I appreciate his gifts of being a good listener and excellent teacher. I think the best compliment I can give him is the reply I gave once when asked to leave my position with the diocese and go work for someone else and I said, ‘I could never leave here because I work for the best boss ever!’” – Pat Wildenberg, secretary to Bishop James P. Powers