This news appeared on the Facebook page of Diocese of Toledo’s Black Catholics Saturday afternoon:

Deacon Emile Adams passed into the next life this morning, 05 November 2022, at 8:20 am PDST. Please pray for the repose of his soul and the comfort of his family and friends who mourn his loss. He was the oldest active Deacon in the United States.

Widely profiled in the Catholic press, Deacon Emile has appeared on The Bench in the past, most recently to mark his 95th birthday in 2017:

Described by friends as “a man of great faith, surprising humor and enormous energy,” Adams is a member of St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Baldwin Hills where he serves at the weekly and daily Masses, leads the Stations of the Cross and the Morning Office and co-chairs the Bereavement Ministry.

Since his ordination as a deacon in 1979, Adams has performed several marriages and baptisms, volunteered for 28 years with the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal and worked with the church’s finger printing program. In 1991, he accompanied then-Archbishop Roger Mahoney to Rome to witness Mahony’s elevation to Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

Adams has a long history of active church involvement. A native of New Orleans, he grew up participating in organizations such as the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), the Junior Holy Name Society and the Junior Knights of Peter Claver.

As an altar boy as well, Adams recalled, “I liked to serve at funerals because I got out of class for the whole day.”

During his senior year in high school, Adams enlisted in the Navy and following his discharge in California at the end of World War II, he relocated his family to Los Angeles and later graduated from Dorsey High School.

In 1943, Adams married Anona LeBoeuf, a union that lasted 58 years and resulted in five children, 16 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great child.

Last year, Angelus News noted:

Though he has a century’s worth of memories to choose from, one that will always get a chuckle out of 99-year-old Emile Adams Jr. starts with him receiving a rather frantic phone call from his daughter, Lillian.

“The power had gone out in my house,” she said. “I had six children, three boys in the bath, a baby down in the crib, two girls running around and [husband] Frank was at work. I couldn’t figure out the fuse box, so I called my dad and he was over in minutes.

“The moment he walks in the house, he puts his arms over his head and says, ‘Let there be light!’ And the lights went on! We all just stared at him for a moment and then my daughter Robyn said to her sister Renee, ‘See Renee, I told you Papa was God.’ ” (We assume Renee nodded knowingly.)

While one can forgive a granddaughter’s pride, the truth is that people seem to recognize something different about Adams. Just ask parishioners at St. Bernadette Church in Baldwin Hills, where Adams has attended since 1972 and began his ministry as a deacon in 1979.

“Emile is one of those people you meet that simply embodies goodness,” said Deacon Jim Carper, the parish life director at St. Bernadette.

The call to the diaconate didn’t come until Adams was already in his 50s.

“There was a deacon position open and the pastor at St. Bernadette recommended me for it,” Adams said. “He told me I was the first person who came to mind.”

That was more than 40 years ago. He’s 99 now, and reputed to be the oldest active deacon in the country — not that the title is anything he really cares about. What is important to Adams is that he can be counted on by his parish community.

It’s who he is — not as a deacon, but as a man — and the reason the “Let there be light!” story is not only amusing, but instructive. First, for the record, Adams said he was only kidding when he commanded the lights and was “as shocked as everyone else when they came on,” attributing matters to a bizarre coincidence.

Read more. 

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

Photo: by David Amador Rivera / Angelus News