Frank was baptized at Saint Patrick's Church on Church Hill, the highest
of Richmond's seven hills. He grew up the context of his own close
knit family and of the large Catholic community in that Church Hill
neighborhood at the time. Frank's father was a city employee who cared
for the park across from their very modest home. He also took care
of the garden at the Monastery of the Visitation located two blocks
from their home. From their home Frank could easily walk to the monastery
for daily Mass at which he served as an altar boy from the day of
his first communion until he left Richmond for college. The Sisters
of the Visitation, had an academy where at the time Frank's two sisters,
Marie and Grace, were educated.
Frank was educated at the Xaverian Brother's School (currently
Saint Patrick's School) and at Benedictine High School in Richmond.
He graduated in 1917, top in his class and valedictorian. In his
late teens, Frank became very active in the Boy Scouts of America.
His involvement was so exemplary that he was asked to serve in roles
of leadership even at his young age. A remarkable young man, Frank
was known for his ideals and practical judgment. Although small
in stature, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. At a time when
the Catholic faith was not considered to be a social asset, Frank
was well thought of by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In fact,
newspaper accounts note his achievements, his natural talents and
his gifts of heart and mind. His vocational choice to study for
the priesthood, his journey to Rome, his untimely death and his
Last Will and Testament received coverage far beyond what one might
expect for the times.
In 1917, Frank began studies for the priesthood at Belmont Abbey
Seminary College in North Carolina. He continued to lead a very
devout life as is detailed in the journal he kept while there. His
stated goal was: "To strive by every possible means to become
a pure and worthy priest, an alterus Christus [sic]."
During this period, he continued to go to Mass and receive Holy
Communion daily, prayed the Rosary and Memorare daily, and went
to confession weekly in accord with a Rule of Life he had drawn
up for himself. He had an abiding sense that "
Heart never fails those that love Him." The Benedictine Fathers
made him aware of the spirituality of the Little Flower, Saint Therese
of the Child Jesus, O.C.D.
While at the college seminary, Frank made the decision to study
for the diocesan priesthood. This decision was made with the assistance
of his spiritual director and after discussions with the Right Reverend
Denis J. O'Connell, D.D., Bishop of Richmond. Frank decided that
there was such a great need for priestly ministry in his native
Virginia that he would forego his desire for monastic life in favor
of direct service to the people of God.
During the summers, while at Belmont Seminary College, he was active
in the Knights of Columbus summer wartime activities for youth and
was director of the summer camp for the Boy Scouts of America. The
leaders of the Scouts saw such virtue and ideals in Frank that they
wanted him to serve as a summer camp director supervising those
who were his seniors. He was considered a "four-ply scout",
exceptional in every way.
In the Fall of 1919, the Right Reverend Denis J. O'Connell, a former
Rector of the North American College, and then Bishop of Richmond,
sent him to study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
He arrived and was matriculated on November 25, 1919. He was popular
among his peers, displayed a warm sense of humor and cheer to all
and continued to deepen his spiritual life. In December he wrote
an Act of Oblation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was
sealed and marked to be read only in the event of his death in Rome.
Frank expressed his motivation in making his offering in this way:
|"I have nothing to leave or to give but
my life and this I have consecrated to the Sacred Heart to be
used as He wills...This is what I live for and in case of death
what I die for.
Since my childhood, I have wanted to die
for God and my neighbor. Shall I have this grace? I do not know,
but if I go on living, I shall live for this same purpose; every
action of my life here is offered to God for the spread and
success of the Catholic Church in Virginia.
I shall be
of more service to my diocese in Heaven than I can ever be on
In addition, he wrote an "Open Letter to the Scouts of Richmond"
marked in a similar manner. The Act of Oblation to the Sacred
Heart of Jesus was not discovered until after his death on February
7, 1920, when a fellow seminarian, Frank Byrne, of the Diocese of
Richmond went through his effects and found this testament.
In late January 1920, Frank came down with rheumatism that developed
into rheumatic fever causing him tremendous suffering. He was taken
to the hospital of the Blue Nuns on January 27. The spiritual director
of the college, Father Mahoney, explained to Frank that his illness
was grave and he administered the Last Rites to him. Frank wished
to get out of bed and kneel on the floor to receive Holy Communion
as Viaticum, but was prevented from doing so. With devotion and
unafraid of death, he knelt on the bed and made his last communion.
On February 6, Monsignor Charles A. O'Hern, rector of the college,
offered the Mass of the Sacred Heart for Frank. Frank Parater died
on February 7, 1920. He was buried in the College Mausoleum at Campo
Verano. His Act of Oblation was discovered after his death.
Two popes have asked for copies of it, and it has been published
in English and in the L'Osservatore Romano in Italian.
In 1920, both city newspapers and the Bishop of Richmond, Most
Reverend Denis J. O'Connell, D.D., praised the virtues of the deceased
seminarian, the later holding him up as a model for seminarians.
Decades later in the 1960's, a bishop of Richmond, who had been
a fellow student with him, the Most Reverend John Joyce Russell,
D.D., named a summer camp for Frank Parater and procured various
items from his family to be kept in the diocesan archives. The present
Bishop of Richmond, the Most Reverend Walter F. Sullivan, D.D.,
having received authorization from the Holy See, has initiated the
cause by establishing a Tribunal to examine the reputation for holiness
of the Servant of God Frank Parater, Seminarian. Father J. Scott
Duarte, J.C.D. of the Diocese of Richmond is the Postulator.