Father John Culloty retires, was pastor in South Boston, Norwood, Medfield, and Norfolk

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"Starting out as a priest 50 years ago was a very different experience of Church than it is now," Father John Culloty said, addressing The Pilot via email.

When he was growing up in Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Brighton, he said, the churches were relatively full on Sundays. One of his parish priests was Father James Dalton, who was "beloved by every age group in the parish."

"I was very impressed by his kindness and humility and I imagine in many ways his example led me to consider priesthood as a vocation," Father Culloty said.

Some of his older cousins were priests and nuns, and his family and friends encouraged his vocation.

He attended the parish school at Presentation through eighth grade, followed by Mission Church High School, and later Cardinal O'Connell Seminary in Jamaica Plain. Following theology studies at St. John, Brighton, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1972.

His first assignment was at Immaculate Conception Parish in Salem, where he remained for seven years. He said it was "such a wonderful time to be a priest," and that he met people who remain friends even now, 50 years later.

In 1979, Father Culloty joined a team ministry at St. Stephen Parish in Framingham. He also applied for a position in campus ministry at Wellesley College and Framingham College, and he served in that ministry for eight years.

"I particularly found satisfaction in organizing a number of service trips for the students to Haiti and to observe how that experience was life changing for many of the students," Father Culloty said.

His first experience of being a pastor was at St. Brigid Parish in South Boston from 1992 to 2000. His longest assignment was 14 years at St. Timothy Parish in Norwood from 2000 to 2014. He was also the vicar forane for the Central Region of the archdiocese from 1997 to 1999, and vicar forane for the West Region from 2011 to 2017.

He was the pastor of the collaborative of St. Edward the Confessor in Medfield and St. Jude in Norfolk from 2014 to 2018. He then served four years as senior vicar at St. Mary in Plymouth and St. Joseph in Kingston. Now, as a senior priest, he continues to assist at those parishes on weekends and fill in for staff members when needed.

"It was great to do parish ministry full time and leave the administrative duties to the pastor of the collaborative," Father Culloty said.

He said the coronavirus pandemic was more challenging for the parish staff, "who did a marvelous job given all the restrictions," than for him. For his part, he said, "It was odd not to have interactions with parishioners and not to be able to be with them at challenging moments in their lives," such as funerals or visits to the sick.

This summer has been "the summer of weddings" for Father Culloty, as many people he knew as children have been getting married.

"To be with people at important life moments, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals, "and to always treat people with respect is vital in my judgment," he said.

Before beginning the celebration of Mass, he tries to walk through the church and chat with the people in the pews.

"So often that is an opportunity to hear their ideas and learn about a need or problem that is affecting their lives," Father Culloty said.

He said that priesthood has been "a great journey for me with some challenges but far more blessings."

"It has enabled me to speak about how good God is and to have met so many wonderful people who possess great faith, hope, and kindness," he said.