Obituary: Father Walter J. Waldron, long-time Boston pastor

It might seem odd for a lad from Milton who was ordained a priest in Rome on Dec. 16, 1964, that he would spend 50 years of active priestly ministry in two "inner city" Boston parishes, but that would be Father Walter J. Waldron.

One of five children of the late Walter and Frances (Carroll) Waldron, he was born in Milton on Feb. 16, 1940, and raised in St. Agatha Parish. He was an alumnus of Boston College High School. He attended archdiocesan seminaries at Jamaica Plain -- Cardinal O'Connell and St. Clement, Brighton, for philosophy. He was sent to the Pontifical North American College, Rome, for theological studies at the Jesuits' Pontifical Gregorian University.

The rector of the college, Bishop Francis Reh, ordained him and his classmates to the priesthood at St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 16, 1964. Two other Bostonians were ordained that day -- the late Bishop Walter J. Edyvean; and Bishop William F. Murphy, former auxiliary of the archdiocese and bishop emeritus of the Rockville Centre.

Following his return to the archdiocese in the summer of 1965, he was appointed to St. Margaret of Scotland, Beverly, as an assistant. It seemed like a good fit -- Milton to Beverly!

Two years later, he was assigned to the mother parish of the archdiocese and to urban parish life, where he would spend the next 50 years of priestly ministry. This actually proved to be the "best" fit!

The mother parish of New England and of the archdiocese was in the then-declining South End. In addition to the mother church, there was a high school, a grammar school, a convent, a rectory, and El Centro del Cardenal -- a pastoral center for the rapidly growing Hispanic population in the parish and all the ministries of an inner city parish. Father Waldron served as an assistant there for nearly 17 years. Rectors, school chaplains, and other assistants came and went, he remained. For Catholics and indeed for all South End residents, he was really the face of the archdiocese in the South End.

In 1985 he moved a few miles to the southwest of the Cathedral when Archbishop Bernard Law appointed him first as administrator and then as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Roxbury.

When he arrived in Roxbury, just as the South End had been, it was in a very tough period. The Catholic population once at probably 80 percent of the census numbers had plummeted; the plague of urban blight was evident but Father Waldron took to the sidewalks and the streets, as he had done in the South End, and brought the presence of the Church to this corner of the city.

He readily sought and received the help of various women religious, including the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, whose first assignment in the archdiocese had been at the Roxbury parish. Later on, as new people arrived to the parish -- Spanish speaking from Central American nations, Portuguese speakers from Cape Verde, and French or Patois speakers from Haiti -- he welcomed Sisters whose ministries among the new peoples was irreplaceable.

With more than three decades of service in the Roxbury parish and with dramatic demographic shifts of population from heavily Irish before his arrival to mostly Black for the greater part of his tenure; with the arrival of new peoples -- as previously noted -- from among other places Central America, from Haiti; and lastly, with the rising population of younger professionals, he saw it all.

Among the parish's highlights while he was pastor were the celebration of its sesquicentennial in 1986. And a quarter century later, the 175th, with celebrations both in the parish and in local banquet facilities.

We here at The Pilot owe him a special thanks. Whenever we sent out an "invitation" to join a special issue -- Catholic Schools, new bishops, etc., he called within the first week to sign up for an ad. Even with a very tight budget, he secured the cover for the Boston Catholic Directory in observance of St. Patrick's 175th anniversary in 2011.

When he retired in 2017, he lived initially at the Roxbury rectory, then briefly at Regina Cleri, before returning to Roxbury. He died on Christmas day after a period of declining health.

Cardinal Seán O'Malley was to be the principal celebrant of Father Waldron's funeral Mass at St. Patrick, Roxbury, on Jan. 5, 2022. The homilist was to be Father Waldron's surviving "Boston Roman" classmate, Rockville Centre's Bishop Emeritus William F. Murphy. Other priests were concelebrants, including the parish's present pastor, Father John Currie.

Father Waldron's immediate survivors are his three siblings: John, Dedham; Marie Fallon, Barrington, Ill.; and Denise Parody, Naples, Fla. Following the funeral Mass, Father Waldron was buried in the Waldron Family plot at Milton Cemetery, Milton.