Richard Mathews, Diocesan Director of Safe Environment, dies at 62

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

January 8, 2020

Richard Mathews (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
Richard Mathews

FORT WORTH — “Some people leave big shoes to fill, but Richard leaves a big heart to fill,” said Nancy Benson about the death of her friend Richard Mathews, the director of Safe Environment for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Benson and Mathews served together on the parish advisory council and stewardship committee of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington, where he became a member in 2012.

Benson said that Mathews, a convert to Catholicism, was a great disciple of Jesus. “Few of us are as ‘all in’ as he was,” she said, remembering that he inspired his friends and fellow parishioners to deeper in faith with his encouraging texts, emails, and Facebook posts.

Mathews died on Jan. 4 at the age of 62.

A visitation is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Wade Family Funeral Home, 4140 W. Pioneer Parkway in Arlington. The Rosary will be prayed at 7 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial is set for 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at St. Maria Goretti Church, 1200 S. Davis Drive in Arlington.

Mathews joined the Diocese of Fort Worth as Safe Environment Director in the summer of 2017 at a time when the Safe Environment Program needed a strong leader to revamp and enhance it.

“Richard, being Richard, did that superlatively because of his competence, his professionalism, and his extensive background,” said Msgr. E. James Hart, chancellor and moderator of the Curia and a friend of Mathews. “He brought this enormous reservoir of experience and expertise to the task. We could not have asked for anybody better.”

An attorney since 1982, Mathews had lengthy experience in youth protection and child abuse prevention through his previous employment as the general counsel of the Boy Scouts of America, where he served for 11 years. He also worked three years as general counsel for Trail Life USA.

Mathews viewed his role as director of Safe Environment for the diocese as a calling. In an interview with the North Texas Catholic when he joined the diocese, he said, “My Catholic faith guides, directs, and completely informs my work. It creates peace in my vocation, knowing that I am where God wants me to be.”

Msgr. Hart watched Mathews live his faith daily in his years as director of safe environment. “His Catholic faith was the center of his life; it guided everything he did,” said the chancellor, who noted that during daily Mass, Mathews was exceptionally attentive and took notes during the homily. “Maybe that’s because he was a former prosecutor,” Msgr. Hart said with a smile. Mathews, known to be quick to laugh, would have appreciated the quip.

Kim Robinson, a psychologist and safe environment trainer, consulted with Mathews many times. She remembered his composure and “settling influence,” which helped him resolve disputes equitably.

“For an attorney to take on this role — he could have made a fortune somewhere — but he chose to do this. He worked untold hours and did a wonderful job,” she recalled, impressed that his instruction of safe environment facilitators didn’t end when the class concluded. “He empowered us [safe environment trainers] to do our best at what we do,” she said, by continuing to communicate with them, giving them ideas on how to answer questions, and soliciting their feedback.

Nancy Mitchell, the assistant director for safe environment, said, “He was humble and treated everyone with respect. I will remember how willing he was to listen, even when he was very busy, and then process that input before he made decisions.”

In addition to his passion for God and the Catholic Church, Mathews enjoyed exercise and watching sports, according to Mitchell. She recalled, “He loved his wife, Laura. His face would light up when he would talk about her.”

Mathews and his wife, Laura, were married for more than 35 years, and they have two sons, Bradley and Ryan.

Mathews served on the Board of Directors for Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life advocacy organization, and Bella House, a faith-based residence for homeless, pregnant women. He was a member of the St. Thomas More Society, the Cardinal Newman Society, the Christian Leadership Alliance, and the Knights of Columbus. 

Mathews earned an undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1979, and he earned his law degree in 1982 from the Drake University School of Law. In 1993, he received a Master of Laws degree in employment and labor law from Wayne State University.

Throughout the Diocese of Fort Worth, Mathews will be remembered as a man who “first and foremost, lived his faith,” said Gary Patton, diocesan director of human resources for the Diocese of Fort Worth. Then he will be remembered as a friend, because Mathews “cared about people. No matter how busy he was, he would take the time to talk with someone who needed an ear.”

For those who would like to make a memorial donation, his family recommends Human Life International, the Bella House, or a charity of choice.

FORT WORTH — “Some people leave big shoes to fill, but Richard leaves a big heart to fill,” said Nancy Benson about the death of her friend Richard Mathews, the director of Safe Environment for the Diocese of Fort Worth.

Published (until 12/5/2040)