Obituary: Father Edward D. Cowhig, former military chaplain at 90

Father Edward D. Cowhig, a former military chaplain and one of the more colorful figures in the archdiocesan presbyterate, died in Scituate on Jan. 6. He was 90. His death leaves only one member of the ordination class of 1945 alive in the archdiocese, Father John P. Kelly, who lives with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville. The other surviving member of the class is Springfield’s retired Bishop Joseph F. Maguire.

Born in Boston he was one of the six children of the late Daniel and Mary (McCarthy) Cowhig. He attended St. Margaret School in his home parish in Dorchester and was graduated from Boston English High before entering Boston College. He was quarterback of the football team when the Eagles played in the 1939 Cotton Bowl.

One of his favorite stories was an autobiographical note about him and two of his brothers. The three attended different Catholic colleges but all played football for the legendary Frank Leahy. An older brother played at Fordham, Ed played at BC and a younger brother played at Notre Dame! He was proud of his Boston College connection and was a member of the class of 1941.

He completed his seminary studies at St. John’s, Brighton and Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on June 29, 1945. Between ordination and 1950, when he entered the United States Army Chaplain Corps, he was assistant at Immaculate Conception, Revere and St. Francis de Sales, Charlestown.

During his 12 years of military service he served Army personnel in several places including in Okinawa during the Korean Conflict; Germany; North Carolina and Kentucky.

Returning to the archdiocese he was named assistant at a number of archdiocesan parishes over the next 30 years: St. Mary, Lynn; St. Michael, Lowell; St. Joseph, Somerville; Sacred Heart, Gloucester; and St. Jude, Norfolk. For ten years he was in residence and assisted regularly in parish responsibility at St. Alphonsus Parish, then on the Beverly/Danvers line. He was regular celebrant of the Sunday evening Mass at the parish where he was widely admired for his brief and to the point homilies always peppered with relevant stories -- as some noted “actual or crafted.”

Any gathering of priests at which he was present took on a notable change in tone. He was in fact larger than life both physically and vocally. And if you asked for one story you’d need to make space for a few more!

His years of military service on front lines made him a ready and willing listener and his sympathetic ear and simple counsel made him a sought after advisor. He was down to earth and steady in faith.

South Regional Bishop John Dooher was the principal celebrant of Father Cowhig’s Funeral at St. Mary of the Nativity Church, Scituate on Jan. 12. Father John Donovan, a senior priest in residence at Regina Cleri was the homilist. Among concelebrants joining them were the parish’s pastor Father Kenneth Cannon, Father James McCune Chaplain for Senior Priests and Father Gerald Brennan, Regina Cleri Residence.

Following the funeral Mass Father Cowhig was interred in New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan. He was predeceased by all his siblings and his survivors are his nieces and nephews living locally and across the country.