byFather Robert M. O'Grady
Father James D. Lyons Pilot file photo
One of the archdiocese's best liked priests, especially among his brother priests, Father James D. Lyons died unexpectedly at St. Francis of Assisi Rectory in Dracut where he has been a senior priest in residence since June 1, 2010. Retired since 2006 he has been, nevertheless, still very active in the parish and about the archdiocese. He was from that old school which says you go to a priest's funeral -- whether you knew him or not. Often priests would see him at a funeral of a brother priest and try to conjure the connection. If you asked him about it most likely it would be said with a quizzical look almost saying "Why wouldn't I be here?"
Born in Lowell on Dec. 23, 1933 he was the son of the late Charles and Josephine (Robinon) Lyons; the family was raised in nearby Billerica and he was a son of St. Andrew Parish there.
He attended archdiocesan seminaries at Jamaica Plain and Brighton, and Cardinal Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at the cathedral on Feb. 2, 1960. His first assignment to St. Leo, Dorchester must have been interesting, as the "country boy" was immersed immediately into a city parish which was changing rapidly. In 1965 he was named an assistant at St. Bridget Parish in Abington and in 1975 an associate at St. Catherine of Genoa Parish, Somerville where he became friends with the pastor, Msgr. William Glynn. The two remained friends and golfing partners for years following.
In 1979 he assumed the challenging duty of chaplain at the busy South Shore Hospital in Weymouth while living in residence at nearby St. Francis Xavier Rectory. In 1985 Cardinal Law named him administrator of St. Michael Parish in Avon and a bit more than a year later he named him pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Danvers.
On Feb. 5, 1991 he was named pastor of Hyde Park's Most Precious Blood Parish succeeding the beloved Bishop Lawrence Riley who had retired as auxiliary bishop and pastor. Cardinal Law named him pastor of St. Mary Parish in Rowley in 1996 and he remained there while the parish was merged with neighboring St. Mary Parish in Georgetown. He was instrumental in guiding the parishioners through a trying time, yet his easy style made the difficult process a bit easier for all involved.
He retired in June 2006 and served at St. Marguerite d'Youville parish in Dracut until last June when he moved to St. Francis of Assisi in Dracut. The former pastor of St. Marguerite, Father Bob Connors was always pleased and proud of having Jim around to help out and more recently Father Brian Mahoney enjoyed the same company and fraternal support.
Cardinal O'Malley was scheduled to be the principal celebrant of Father Lyons' Funeral Mass at St. Francis Church on June 4. Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey, classmate Bishop Francis Irwin and Merrimack Regional Vicar, Father Arthur Coyle were also to be concelebrants. Father J. Michael Lawler, pastor of St. Paul, Hamilton was to be the homilist and others indicating their intention to concelebrate the Funeral Mass were St. Francis pastor, Father Brian Mahoney; Msgr. William Glynn, classmates Fathers James Canniff, Dennis Dever, and John Hannon; Father Richard Clancy, campus minister at MIT, Father Bob Connors, pastor St. Patrick, Watertown and Father Christopher Casey, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Methuen.
Father Lyons leaves no immediate survivors. He was to be buried in St. Patrick Cemetery, Lowell following the Funeral Mass.