Obituary: Father Henry Gagnon, former Bentley College chaplain

He seemed always to have a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Father Henry W. Gagnon, a senior priest of the archdiocese since 1999 died at Lahey Clinic in Burlington following a brief illness on Nov. 26. He would have celebrated his 80th birthday on March 8, 2009.

He delighted in tracing his roots to St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Lynn, preferring the French, and proper title of the parish to its anglicized “St. John the Baptist”. He was one of the three children, and the only son, of the late Walter and Annette (Dionne) Gagnon. He attended the parish’s grammar school and graduated from Assumption High School in Worcester in 1947. He studied at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy from which he was graduated in 1952. He practiced as a licensed pharmacist for several years before entering St. John’s Seminary.

Cardinal Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood on Feb. 6, 1964 at Holy Cross Cathedral. Over the next 14 years he would serve in three parishes, all of them personal parishes for the French speaking, St. Joseph, Salem (1964-1966); St. Therese, Dracut (1966-1971) and St. Joseph, Waltham (1971-1978).

In 1978 he began a new kind of priestly ministry for him serving as campus minister at Waltham’s Bentley College. During this time he was resident at Sacred Heart Rectory, Watertown. Listening to him relate his experiences at Bentley certainly left the impression that this assignment was for him a gem.

He returned to parish life as a temporary parochial vicar at St. Joseph, Everett. With some health problems, he was on sick leave for several years between 1988 and 1992; part of that time he lived in residence at St. Richard of Chichester Parish, Danvers where he took on as much duty and responsibility as if he were assigned full time to the parish.

In June 1992 he became a parochial vicar at St. Michael Parish, Bedford remaining in that status at the parish until 1999 when he was granted senior priest retirement status. From the time of his retirement until his death he had been in residence at the Bedford parish serving with his friend and seminary contemporary, Father Mark Sheehan.

Cardinal Seán O’Malley was the principal celebrant of Father Gagnon’s Funeral Mass at St. Michael Church, Bedford on Dec. 3. Among the concelebrants scheduled to join the cardinal were Father Vincent Maffei, who served as homilist; Father Mark Sheehan, St. Michael’s pastor; Father Martin Connor, St. Mary of the Sacred Heart, Hanover; Father Michael Nolan, St. Mary, Waltham; and Father Joseph Robinson, St. Margaret, Burlington.

Father Gagnon’s sisters Elaine Santos, Brookside, N.J. and Anne Marie Moran, Nashua, N.H. are his immediate survivors. Following the funeral Mass, Father Gagnon was buried in St. Jean Baptiste Cemetery, Lynn.