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Obituary: Father Harold Lawson, former team ministry member and educator


Father Harold Lawson Pilot file photo

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Father Harold "Harry" Lawson, the only child of the late Harold and Gertrude (Laughlin) Lawson, died at Boston's residence for senior priests, Regina Cleri, on June 5, 2021. He was born in Haverhill on Feb. 18, 1933, and grew up in the city's Bradford section, a son of Sacred Hearts Parish. After graduation from high school, he entered St. John Seminary, Brighton, and on completion of his seminary studies, he was ordained at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The ordination on Feb. 2, 1959, had the distinction of being the first class of priests ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston by its archbishop, who the previous December had been named to College of Cardinals by Pope St. John XXIII.

Father Lawson's first assignment was as an assistant at St. Mary Parish, Franklin, probably the most geographically distant parish from Haverhill, save perhaps Plymouth. In 1960, he returned to the more familiar banks of the Merrimack River, as an assistant at St. Patrick, Lawrence.

The spring of 1968 found him a new form of priestly minister when he was appointed to the faculty of Cardinal Cushing Academy in West Newbury. After three years in "academia," he returned to parish life as an associate at St. Columbkille Parish, Brighton, serving there until 1979.

Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named him as a member of a newly formed three-priest team ministry at St. Joseph, Lynn. He served the Lynn parish for nine years and, in 1988, he was granted health leave status.

From July 1988 until his death, he was beset by health problems and, for the intervening 33 years, he was either on health leave or designated a senior priest. He has been in residence at Regina Cleri since Nov. 11, 1997. Almost a quarter century of residence there ranks him among the longest residents of Regina Cleri.

Father Robert E. Casey, the present pastor of Gate of Heaven and St. Brigid Parishes in South Boston, served at Holy Family Parish in Amesbury for a number of years and recalled, "I always liked Harry. He was a welcome visitor to Amesbury on Saturday evenings when I hosted priests in the area for dinner. I remember he told stories of his chaplaincy on the high seas aboard cruise ships. After the formal dinners on board, he retired to a lounge and delighted the others with his piano playing."

Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey was the principal celebrant of Father Lawson's funeral Mass, celebrated June 12 at Sacred Hearts, Haverhill. Father John J. Nichols, a fellow resident of Father Lawson at Regina Cleri, concelebrated and also served as the homilist.

Among the other concelebrants were Sacred Hearts current pastor, Father John W. Delaney; and Fathers Albert Stankard and John Nichols, both of Regina Cleri, Boston.

Following the funeral Mass, Father Lawson was buried with his parents in St. James Cemetery, Haverhill.

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