Obituary: Msgr. Paul Moritz, Boston’s oldest and longest ordained priest

He seemed to be the most active “oldest and longest ordained” in recent memory. Msgr. Paul L. Moritz, the archdiocese’s most senior and eldest priest, died at Regina Cleri on Nov. 25.

Born in Boston’s Dorchester section on Jan. 19, 1911 he was one of seven children of the late Francis and Margaret Moritz. He attended the College of the Holy Cross and St. John’s Seminary.

Bishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 1, 1941. He was the last surviving member of that ordination class. Father Paul Francis, ordained on Dec. 22, 1941, is now the most senior of Boston’s priests; while Msgr. Stan Sypek, pastor of St. Adalbert Parish, Hyde Park is the oldest -- born five weeks before Father Francis.

Msgr. Moritz’s priestly service was as varied as it was long. Although serving primarily in parishes he also had a few “special” assignments.

His parish assignments crisscrossed the archdiocese. During his first ten years he was an assistant in five parishes: St. Columbkille, Brighton; Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted, Waltham; Sacred Heart, Lynn; St. John the Evangelist, Canton; St. Mary of the Annunciation, Cambridge.

In October 1951 he was named Director of Cathedral High School, serving as an assistant at the Cathedral (1951-1956) and then in residence (1956-1968). His almost 17 years at the Cathedral was a period of great growth for the Catholic Church in the United States and Father Moritz saw the spurt in priestly and religious vocations stream from the mother parish of the archdiocese.

He was apparently a great promoter of vocations because one of his altar servers at St. Mary of the Annunciation, Cambridge, inspired in great part by Father Moritz’s priestly life entered the seminary and is now the bishop of Manchester, former Boston auxiliary Bishop John B. McCormack. Bishop McCormack was the homilist at Msgr. Moritz’s funeral Mass.

In 1968 he moved from what was already a rapidly changing Cathedral High School to a quickly growing parish on the North Shore -- St. Ann, Peabody. For the next 20 years he served the parish with constancy and kindness. His was a steady, yet gentle, guiding hand. He enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for being loved by his parishioners and the priests who served with him. Father Charles Connolly, SJ, who assisted at St. Ann on weekends, recalled “He was a gentleman’s gentleman.”

Following his so-called retirement in 1988 he moved south to Brockton where he was senior priest in residence at St. Patrick Parish there. While in Brockton he had additional assignments, while maintaining his “retired” status.

He served for nine months as vicar in the Brockton vicariate, South Region and then commuted between Brockton and Natick where he had been named administrator of St. Patrick Parish, Natick.

Continuing his “attachment” to St. Patrick Parishes, in 1990 he moved residence to St. Patrick, Lowell and served as the interim regional vicar of the Merrimack Region until May 1992, when he was relieved of that duty with the appointment of the late Bishop John McNamara as Merrimack’s Regional Bishop.

He returned to Brockton and was named administrator of St. Paul Parish, Hingham in 1992. At 81, still going strong and saying “yes” to the requests of the fourth of five of Boston’s archbishops under whom he would serve.

On Jan. 7, 1993 Pope John Paul II enrolled Father Moritz in the papal household, naming him a prelate of honor with the title of Reverend Monsignor.

In October 2005 at 94 he moved to Regina Cleri Residence. However he was still not “retired”. He had returned to assist on weekends at his former parish in Peabody, driving himself to and from the parish until just a few years ago when he shuttled back and forth. Msgr. Jim Tierney, Regina Cleri director, said he was just as active in the retired priests’ home as he had been in parishes “he was very much part of the community here.”

Retired Auxiliary Bishop John Boles was the principal celebrant of Msgr. Moritz’s Funeral Mass at St. John the Evangelist church, Canton on Nov. 29. His former altar boy, Bishop John McCormack was the homilist. Joining them as concelebrants were Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey, and many priests among them Msgr. James Tierney, Regina Cleri, Boston; Fathers James McCune, Director of the Office for Senior Priests; Father Thomas Foley, vicar for Parish Life and Leadership; Father Richard “Doc” Conway; and current St. John’s pastor, Father Michael McLellan.

Following the funeral Mass, Msgr. Moritz was buried in St. Mary Cemetery, Canton. His brother Robert and his nieces and nephews are his immediate survivors.