Priests honor peers at Chrism Mass luncheon

Each year following the Chrism Mass, during which priests renew their commitment to their vocation, several priests in the Archdiocese of Boston are recognized for their dedication and service. This year three priests were acknowledged at the Chrism Mass luncheon held at St. John’s Seminary April 6.

“This Chrism Mass luncheon, following the annual renewal of our priestly commitment, provides us with a most appropriate setting in which to celebrate the presbyterate of the Archdiocese of Boston,” said director of the Pastoral Institute at St. John’s Seminary Father James M. Mahoney leading the ceremony. “Now, more than ever, it is good for us to be together.”

This year’s honorees were: Father Daniel J. Sheehan, senior priest in residence at St. Brigid Parish in Boston; Father Martin P. Connor, spiritual director at St. John’s Seminary; and Msgr. William C. Francis, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Dorchester.

The three priests were recommended by their peers from a pool of candidates for recognition. Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley presented each priest with a lamp to symbolize the light that their vocation brings to the world, Father Mahoney explained.

“In a brief ‘moment of recognition’ of three of our brother priests, it is not our intention to single them out, but to recognize in them qualities, characteristics and attributes present in each of us who are God’s faithful servants,” Father Mahoney said. “This is a day to recognize the quiet, unsung dedication to Christ and His people.”

Father Sheehan, who was ordained in 1953, served at St. Paul Parish in Hingham, St. Mary in Cambridge, St. Stephen in Framingham and St. Thomas in Salem. He also served as a member of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle and was one of the first priests to volunteer to go to South America in 1960.

Upon accepting his award, Father Sheehan said that he has had “a very, very happy priesthood.”

Being “stationed with some wonderful priests” throughout his life contributed to the fulfillment he received through his vocation, he said. “God has blessed me with some great priest friends, which is very valuable.”

Father Connor, who recently left the faculty at St. John’s Seminary, was ordained in 1964. In addition to having served at the seminary for almost 30 years, Father Connor has served at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Hanover and St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Woburn.

“In his ministry at the seminary, he has spiritually guided and directed countless numbers of men in their journey toward the priesthood,” Father Mahoney stated. “He is one of a few gifted priests in this archdiocese who has helped men learn to pray and build a diocesan spirituality through his ministry as spiritual director.”

Father Connor saw the recognition as a commendation of the entire presbyterate of the archdiocese saying, “I’m very pleased to receive this acknowledgement that is not for me, but for the priesthood itself.”

Being a spiritual director at the seminary was a “very graced experience,” he said, and preparing men for the priesthood has been the “epitome and high point of my life.”

Msgr. Francis, who was ordained in 1958, was the third priest recognized. Before becoming pastor of Holy Family Parish, Msgr. Francis spent years serving the poor in the mountains and slums of Peru as a member of the Society of St. James. He has also served as the chaplain to the Boston Police Department.

Due to recent severe injury, he has been confined to a wheelchair and bed-rest. However, despite this setback he delivered a humorous speech and urged his fellow priests to minister to the poor.

“I encourage any young priest — anyone under 65 years old,” he joked, “If you want to learn something about God’s poor and how to serve them, join the St. James Society.”