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Obituary: Father Charles Duggan former pastor in Salem at 90

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 5/29/2009

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Father Charles T. Duggan Pilot photo

A former altar boy was the principal celebrant, the pastor of the parish where he served the longest was the homilist and some 50 brother priests concelebrated the funeral Mass of Father Charles T. Duggan at St. Raphael Church, Medford on May 23. Father Duggan died at Regina Cleri on May 19; he had been in declining health for some time. He had celebrated his 90th birthday on April 25.

A Lynn native, he was the son of the late Charles and Margaret (Meaney) Duggan. He was graduated from St. Mary High School, Lynn, and from the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester in 1940. He completed seminary studies at St. John’s, Brighton and Bishop Richard Cushing, administrator of the archdiocese following the death of William Cardinal O’Connell on April 22, 1944, ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury on Aug. 10, 1944.

Father Duggan delighted in telling stories and he not infrequently made himself, not so much the center, as the brunt of them. He had material right from the beginning. It seems that his class’s ordination had been scheduled for spring of 1944. With Cardinal O’Connell’s death it had to be delayed either until a new archbishop was named or until permission was received from Rome. Communication not being what it is now, and further complicated by World War II, delayed a response and delayed the date. The place also changed because Bishop Cushing had arranged for some cleaning and renovation of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in preparation for the new archbishop -- whoever he might be and whenever he might arrive!

All of Father Duggan’s priestly life had been spent in service to the people of the archdiocese in parishes, save for the three years he was a Navy Chaplain (1951-1954).

Before entering the Navy he was assigned as an assistant at St. Monica, Methuen (1944-1946); St. Joseph, Pepperell (1946-1947) and St. Patrick, Stoneham (1947-1951); following the Navy assignment he was named an assistant at St. Joseph, Medford (1954-1956); and St. Thomas More, Braintree (1956-1959). He told the story that his mother asked him about his frequent transfers “What’s the matter with you, Charlie? Can’t you stay in one place.” He replied ‘‘They want to spread a good thing around.” There was more truth in that than perhaps he knew or wanted to admit.

In 1959 he went to St. Francis Xavier in Weymouth. Father Richard “Doc” Conway, who was a newly ordained and fellow associate at Weymouth, said of Charlie “One of the best guys to live with and one of the best priests I know.” In 1965 Father Duggan left Weymouth for Dorchester’s St. Mark Parish where he served as an associate until being named pastor at St. Nicholas in Abington in 1970. While in Abington, he served also as an episcopal vicar in the South Region of the archdiocese. Five years later he was named pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle, Peabody where he served for 10 years.

He was an avid and accomplished golfer, one of Boston’s priests who were members at Salem Country Club; one was fellow Holy Cross alumnus and long time friend, Msgr. Francis O’Sullivan, a senior priest of the archdiocese and a concelebrant at Father Duggan’s funeral Mass. Others were fond of echoing Father “Doc” Conway’s sentiments “He was the best priest -- ever.” And apparently that was a sentiment shared by many others, parishioners, friends he made as Director of Drum and Bugle Corps in parishes, and members at Salem.

Following his retirement in 1985 he continued to serve and for almost 24 years he assisted at St. Rapahel Parish in Medford. His rather “active retirement” thus became his longest assignment.

North Regional Bishop Francis Irwin was the former altar boy who was the principal celebrant. Charlie used to joke about Bishop Irwin when reminded that his server had been made a bishop: “Don’t blame me.” Father Kevin Toomey, pastor at St. Raphael, who had been especially kind and attentive to Father Duggan in his declining years was the homilist. Also concelebrating the funeral Mass was one time Boston auxiliary and Bishop emeritus of Springfield, Bishop Joseph Maguire. The two had been seminary contemporaries and remained life long friends.

Many of Father Duggan’s friends made over so many years of priestly service attended his funeral Mass. He was greatly admired by his brother priests and loved by the folks in the parishes where he served. His trademarks were his broad and welcoming smile and his twinkling bright eyes.

His only sibling, his sister Marjorie Murphy of Lynnfield and a niece and a nephew are his survivors. Father Duggan was buried in St. Mary Cemetery, Lynn.