- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Cardinal James A. Hickey and an overflow crowd of mourners at a Catholic church in Bowie, Md., remembered a slain priest yesterday as a motivator, humorist and "God's instrument" for nearly 30 years.

So many turned out to honor the memory of Monsignor Thomas Wells that hundreds had to pack into the basement at Sacred Heart Church to get a peek at the funeral on one of three televisions.

"We are realizing more and more this week that he seemed to be everywhere," the priest's brother, Dan Wells, told the crowd of about 2,000. "His life was working in the field… . He'd open up that day planner and find a day and time for you."

Monsignor Wells, 56, was found fatally stabbed Thursday morning in the rectory of Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, Md. Montgomery County police have made no arrests.

Though Monsignor Wells worked at the Germantown church, Sacred Heart Church was the first parish he served after his 1971 ordination.

Following the lengthy requiem Mass yesterday, more than 200 priests, bishops and other clergy walked along a wooded path behind the church to a historic graveyard. Family members clutching rosary beads recited the Hail Mary prayer.

Cardinal Hickey, archbishop of the Washington Archdiocese, said prayers over the casket and led the crowd in a chorus of "Salve Regina," an ancient Latin hymn sung at clergy funerals. A bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" after the interment.

The cemetery lies next to the Chapel on the Hill, where the Catholic Church of America was organized in the 1780s and where Father John Carroll was elected the first Catholic bishop of the United States.

"His violent death had a tremendous effect on all of us," the Rev. William Lori, the auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, told reporters after the burial. He conceded having trouble accepting the news last week.

During the Mass, speakers said very little of the manner of death, choosing instead to focus on the ripple Monsignor Wells made in the Catholic Church.

"My friend Tom Wells … has gone home to God and so I rejoice," said the Rev. James Stack, the monsignor's colleague and golf partner. "I rejoice because Tommy always said the goal of life is heaven."

He spoke of Monsignor Wells' dedication to the cloth and desire to conduct personal Mass even on vacation. Father Stack told of the time the two were stuck in Colorado without their "Mass kit," so Monsignor Wells sent his friend down to the hotel bar to ask for wine.

"That's how much he loved the Eucharist," Father Stack said.

Dan Wells recalled his brother's "rampant sarcasm, gentle teasing and ready wit."

Monsignor Wells was ordained into the Washington Archdiocese in 1971 and worked in parishes across Montgomery and Prince George's counties. He was named a monsignor in 1991, came to Mother Seton in January 1999 and had a following of parishioners from as far away as Adelphi.

"We know that Monsignor Tom is not gone," Cardinal Hickey said. "He is with us in another life."

Aside from his brother, Monsignor Wells' three sisters and 21 nieces and nephews were in attendance yesterday. There were so many relatives that they spilled over into the dignitary-seating area.

The church parking lot filled quickly and Prince George's County and Maryland State Police parked vehicles along Route 450, which they closed to all other traffic.

"When you met Father Wells, you knew he had something," said Lizanne Coyle, 45, a member of Sacred Heart Church. "You wanted what he had."

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