Obituary: Father Thomas Buckley, senior priest and team ministry pioneer

A senior priest of the archdiocese, whose priestly service spanned 47 years, died suddenly at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeborough, N.H. on Oct. 2. Father Thomas J. Buckley was 73 years old and had been widely respected among the priests of the archdiocese and known among the people of the various parishes where he served as an excellent homilist and preacher.

He was born in Medford on July 23, 1935, one of three children of the late Thomas and Elizabeth (Coughlin) Buckley. Following education in local schools and graduation from the then newly established Matignon High School in Cambridge, he entered the archdiocesan seminaries first at Cardinal O’Connell in Jamaica Plain and then at St. John, Brighton.

Richard Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on February 2, 1961.

Father Buckley’s first several assignments were at archdiocesan parishes where he served as an assistant or associate: St. Mary, Chelmsford (1961-1965); St. Columbkille, Brighton (1965-1975); St. Francis of Assisi, Medford (1975-1981) and St. Clement, Somerville (1981-1983). At St. Clement he served with the late Msgr. Peter Hart, one of the legendary priests of the archdiocese, with whom Father Buckley developed not only a working relationship but indeed an enduring friendship.

From 1983-1993 he served in a newly established Team Ministry at St. Pius V Parish, Lynn. The spirit of collaboration and team effort which he engendered not only among the priestly team members but also among other collaborators and in the parish at large is still in evidence.

When the team ministry ended he remained as a parochial vicar for a couple years before beginning a new and even more interesting and challenging team ministry at parishes in Amesbury. Arriving in Amesbury with Father Robert Casey, now pastor of St. Brigid and of Gate of Heaven, South Boston, Father Buckley brought not only the reality of team ministry to the city, but also brought together as a “team” two parishes -- Sacred Heart and St. Joseph. Three years later the two parishes gave way to one new parish, Holy Family. The team approach and the spirit of cooperation led in no small part by Father Buckley made the very difficult process much easier and again, as at Lynn, that spirit and team approach continues today.

On Jan. 1, 2007, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley granted Father Buckley senior priest/retirement status. When needed, he was readily available for parish assistance and returned to help at Holy Family. He had been scheduled to celebrate the morning Mass on the day following his death, coming to Amesbury from his retirement residence in Alton, N.H.

Father Buckley’s longtime friend Father Richard Craig was the principal celebrant of his funeral Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Medford on Oct. 6. Present at the funeral Mass were Cardinal O’Malley and Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey.

Concelebrating the Mass were some 50 brother priests including archdiocesan Vicar General Father Richard Erikson; St. Francis Pastor Father Joseph Foster; Father Paul Kilroy, chaplain at Regis College, Weston and Father Cornelius Mullaney, member of the Team Ministry at St. Pius Fifth, Lynn; Father Richard Mehm, pastor of Immaculate Conception, Malden; Father Lawrence Drennan, senior priest and fellow native son of Medford; Father Robert Casey; and Father Jonathan Gaspar, secretary of His Eminence, the Cardinal.

Father Buckley is survived by his sister, Madeline McMahon of Bridgewater and his brother, John of Cotuit. Following the funeral Mass, Father Buckley was buried in Pak Grove Cemetery, Medford.