Obituary: Father Francis Crowley, VA chaplain

A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston for almost 55 years who has been a chaplain at Veterans Administration Hospitals in New York and Rhode Island since 1986 died in North Attelborough on March 8.

Francis J. Crowley was the sole survivor of the three children of the late Patrick and Bridget (Walsh) Crowley. A son of St. Ann Parish in Boston’s Neponset section he attended local schools and entered Boston College prior to his admission to St. John’s Seminary.

Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood, a member of the “second class of 1953,” on Sept. 29, 1953. He returned to his home parish to celebrate his first Mass a few days later on Oct. 4.

From his ordination until he began service to the Veterans Administration in 1986 Father Crowley served in a number of archdiocesan parishes. Immediately after ordination he was assigned as an assistant at St. Mary, Hull (1953-1957); subsequent assignments were as assistant at: St. Mary of the Annunciation, Cambridge (1957-1961); St. Michael, Avon (1961-1962); Immaculate Conception, Salem (1962-1965) and St. Peter, Gloucester (1965-1968). He was named associate pastor at Holy Family Parish, Rockland serving there for the decade between 1968 and 1978.

Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St. William Parish, Dorchester on Aug. 14, 1978 and just a little more than two years later the familiar Spanish Mission style church on Dorchester Avenue burned to the ground.

He immediately undertook a capital campaign and with the encouragement of the cardinal succeeded in raising the funds to build a new church and rectory. The projects were completed three years after the fire and Bishop Thomas Daily, then the administrator of the archdiocese, dedicated the church on Nov. 27, 1983.

The design of the church was noticeably different from the previous church and not a few parishioners found the changes dramatic. Father Crowley continued to serve as pastor until June 16, 1986 when he entered service as a chaplain for the Veterans Administration.

He found a new niche in this ministry serving at Veterans Hospitals in Bronx, N.Y. Virginia, and more recently at Providence, R.I.

Father Crowley obtained additional degrees following ordination including a masters in social work, a masters in education and a certificate of advanced graduate studies. He was also well known for his devotion to the Colonial Pipers Bagpipe Band which he served as chaplain for 36 years.

Bishop Francis X. Roque, a retired auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and a one-time priest of the Providence diocese was the principal celebrant of Father Crowley’s funeral Mass.

The bishop was joined by other priest friends and chaplains and family and friends from Neponset and beyond at Father Crowley’s boyhood home parish church, St. Ann, Neponset on March 12. Father Crowley was buried in New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan.