Obituary: Father Dennis J. Wheatley, long-time pastor in Waltham

He prided himself on his New York roots and could, he told his parishioners in Waltham, never become a fan of any Boston area teams. Apparently, he kept his word. On Dec. 11, 2021, after 22 years as pastor of Sacred Heart (Italian) Parish in Waltham, Father Wheatley returned to the house of the Father. He had been battling both cancer and COVID-19 and, in spite of some rallying points, he succumbed to both.

In a coincidence, the date of his death was the last day that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province would be staffing the Waltham parish. The Friars had indicated to the archdiocese that, once Father Wheatley left the parish, they would no longer have friars available for service there.

In spite of his stated pride in his New York roots, he became greatly loved at the parish. The comments and praise on the tribute page of his death notice were filled with thanks, with fond memories and appreciation for his priestly ministry of more than two decades.

Apparently, there was a fine phrase coined about him during his pastorate: "He put the heart in Sacred Heart." He recently commented that he had been long enough at the parish that "I was celebrating the marriages of some to whom I had given their First Communion."

Father Wheatley served elsewhere in the archdiocese on the faculty of Christopher Columbus High School in Boston's North End and then at Marian High School, Framingham. Both assignments were prior to his Waltham appointment.

The vigil service was celebrated on Dec. 19 at Sacred Heart, with Cardinal O'Malley as the celebrant. Father Wheatley's funeral Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart on Dec. 20, 2021, with West Regional Bishop Robert P. Reed as the principal celebrant. He was joined by Franciscan Friars and local priests as concelebrants. Following the funeral Mass, Father Wheatley was buried in the Friars Section of Calvary Cemetery, Queens, N.Y.

Father Wheatley's immediate survivors are his brother Thomas and his sister Odile.