By Kenneth J. Souza
OSTERVILLE, Mass. — Father Philip A. Davignon, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, was taking his normal morning walk before celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass on January 21 a practice he regularly enjoyed for health reasons — when he was struck by a motor vehicle, leaving him seriously injured with a broken and dislocated shoulder and minor concussion.
It was a traumatic experience that left the priest understandably shaken as he was transported on a Med-Flight to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
And yet his immediate thoughts following the incident were with the 18-year-old young man who was driving the car — a person Father Davignon recognized as one of his own parishioners.
“After being hit, as I lay on the ground, my first feeling was of sorrow for the young man who had hit me,” Father Davignon shared with The Anchor. “I recognized him as a parishioner and reassured him that I would be all right. It’s bad enough to hit anybody, but to hit your pastor must have been utterly devastating. He and his father kindly visited me at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”
After an extended hospital stay, Father Davignon — who will celebrate his 48th anniversary of priestly ministry this May — was anxious not only to get back home to his parish and ministry, but also to allay the concerns and fears of his parishioners … especially the young man who hit him.
Although Mass was celebrated by a visiting priest, by February 6 he was back sitting in the sanctuary with his arm in a sling.
“I sat in the sanctuary for the Vigil Mass so that people could see that I was recuperating nicely,” Father Davignon said. “After Mass I spoke to the young man and his father and reassured them of my continuing recovery.”
While he sustained serious injuries, Father Davignon said he felt blessed to have survived what could have been a fatal accident.
“At the time of the accident I was wearing the brown scapular in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” he said. “From the very beginning of this horrifying happening, I felt that the Virgin Mary had saved me from death or even more serious injury. I have expressed this many times.”
During this Lenten season of sacrifice and repentance, Father Davignon admitted the experience has also given him reason to pause and reflect on his own life and spirituality.
“Since this accident, I have had a lot of time to reflect on things that I have taken for granted, such as overall good health and my need as a priest and pastor to truly mean and live my prayer life as a Christian,” he said. “I try to begin each day with my morning offering which is as follows:
“Almighty God, I offer you my body, my soul, all that I am, all that I shall do or suffer this day for your glory and my salvation and the salvation of others, in union with Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He also accepts the accident as his own cross to bear.
“As Christians and part of the Mystical Body of Christ, each of us, through baptism, has this wonderful opportunity of joining our suffering and mishaps to Jesus’ suffering for our own salvation and the salvation of others,” Father Davignon said. “I have often quoted St. Paul, Colossians 1:24, who wrote, ‘I fill up in my own body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.’ As Catholic Christians, no suffering is meaningless; it is an opportunity to share in our salvation and that of others.
“I have fallen short many times, but with God’s grace, as I get older, hopefully I shall be more faithful.”
Father Davignon also said there’s a lesson to be gleaned from his experience.
“I have always been careful to follow pedestrian rules for walking; but no matter how careful one thinks he is, anything can happen over which one has no control,” he said. “One must be always spiritually ready for any life-threatening happening.”
Father Davignon is recuperating nicely in his Osterville parish rectory and is slowly returning to some of his pastoral duties. He also recently started a series of physical therapy sessions to get his arm and shoulder back in shape so he can once again administer the sacraments.
“The outpouring of love and concern for me during this whole ordeal has brought tears to my eyes many times,” he said. “I thank everyone for all their love and support and ask them to please continue their prayers for the parish, the young man and his family, and for my family and me.”