Franciscan Friar Ben Richard Innes, 67, died Feb. 26 at Mercy Retirement Center in Oakland, California. Due to Covid restrictions, a liturgical celebration will occur at San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California, at a later date.

Father Ben (Richard James Innes) was born Sept. 14, 1953, in Beloit, Wisconsin. He was the fourth of six children of William Joseph Innes and Lorraine Swetland Innes Angstrom. The family moved to Portland in 1969, where Father Ben graduated from Parkrose High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in geology at Oregon State University and his theology degree at the Franciscan School of Theology (FST) in Berkeley, California. He pronounced simple vows in 1980 at St. Elizabeth Church in Oakland, and solemn vows four years later at St. Francis Church in Sacramento. Upon completion of his theological studies at Berkeley, Brother Ben was ordained a priest Dec. 29, 1984, at St. Christopher Parish, North Las Vegas, by Franciscan Bishop James Lyke, auxiliary of Cleveland, Ohio.

He served at the Franciscan Renewal Center (The Casa) in Scottsdale, Arizona, and later became executive director of Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California, where he is remembered as a kind-hearted friar who greeted everyone like an old friend. Father Ben’s joy and deep faith made him a compelling public speaker and homilist, attracting young people like the pied piper. This gift led him to almost exclusive involvement with conducting workshops and retreats in the United States and internationally. The story is told of how reporter Mike Wallace of CBS’s 60 Minutes was on assignment at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, and mistakenly walked into the packed auditorium where Ben was speaking. Being told that he was in the wrong room, Wallace responded, “I’d rather stay here. I need to find out what kind of preacher is able to attract this many kids!”

Father Ben’s dream of becoming a pastor of a small parish came true after 20 years in the priesthood when he arrived at St. Mary in Shaw, Oregon. He also served as chaplain at Oregon State Penitentiary, and as pastor at Ascension Parish in Portland, at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Astoria, with its St. Francis de Sales Mission. Father Ben was of service to his brother friars as director of post-novitiate formation, and as guardian for friars in Berkeley, Mission San Luis Rey, and Ascension Parish, as well as serving two terms as provincial definitor (advisor).

He is remembered for his creative homilies, especially his Father’s Day homily, his love of all creation and concern for Mother Earth, his care for each person, and his sense of humor. Father Ben’s happiness and love of life brimmed over into everything he did, including his love for the Oregon State Beavers, “GO Beavs!”

Cartoonist Bil Keane of “The Family Circus” fame, would occasionally pen into his strip a character appropriately named “Father Ben”.

Father Ben is survived by his sister, Congregation of St. Agnes Sister Donna Innes of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; brother William (Cynthia) of West Salem, Wisconsin and their children Gregory (Jenna) and their son Alexander of Ostego, Minnesota, and Sarah Innes Grafton (Walter) of Arlington, Virginia; brother Patrick of Sebastopol, California; brother Kevin (Michelle) and their children Kaelyn and Emma Innes of Beaverton; Angstrom family members: step-brother Richard (Gwen), step-sister Monica Bacon; and numerous others. Father Ben was preceded in death by his parents, brother Daniel Innes and stepbrothers John and Walter Angstrom; grandparents Seth Albert and Anna Marie Swetland; William J. and Marie Innes.

Father Ben, as a good and faithful servant, will be missed by his Franciscan brothers.

He will be inurned in the friar’s vault at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside.