Obituary: Father Thomas W. Buckley, pastor, seminary teacher, and biblical scholar

He was proud of many things and people in his life, but perhaps none more so than his relationship with the Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul. A gentleman with a sly wit, he died on June 16, 2022, at Regina Cleri Residence, Boston. He had celebrated his 93rd birthday on June 11.

A native of Abington and son of St. Bridget Parish, as had been several generations of Buckleys before, he was born on June 11, 1929, a son of the late Thomas and Helen (Moriarty) Buckley. He attended local schools before enrolling in the Boston Public Latin School, graduating in the class of 1945. Armed with his Latin School diploma, he then entered Harvard College and graduated in 1949. With a solid classics background, he went on to Fordham University and received a master's degree in classics in 1940.

Sensing a call to the priesthood, he entered St. John Seminary in Brighton and finishing seminary studies, he was ordained to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on Feb. 2, 1955, by Archbishop Richard J. Cushing. He was the last surviving member of that ordination class. His first and brief assignment, which he still recalled happily, was for a year at Sacred Heart, Middleborough. From 1956 to 1958, he began doctoral studies in biblical theology in Rome at the Biblicum with some side trips and studies in the Holy Land at Jerusalem's Ecole Biblique. In the summers between his academic years, he would serve at Sacred Hearts, Malden; Blessed Sacrament, Cambridge; and St. Cecilia, Boston.

In addition, while completing doctoral work here at home in the archdiocese, he was also assigned as chaplain at Regis College, Weston; later residing at St. Joseph, Somerville; and then St. Paul, Cambridge, where he was also assistant chaplain at his alma mater, Harvard College.

Richard Cardinal Cushing appointed him to the faculty of St. John Seminary in 1965, where he taught sacred scripture and where many came to understand his deep familiarity with St. Paul and Paul's enduring importance in the life of the Church. Serving years of seminary alumni and under four different rectors, he helped shape priests with a love for the Word of God.

In 1981, the longest single assignment of his priestly ministry came with his appointment to be the pastor of the parish of St. John the Baptist in Essex. Just as he had made lasting marks on future priests, he likewise made friends and admirers among his parishioners in the small, seaside parish on the Northshore almost as far as one could get within the archdiocese from Abington.

He was granted senior priest retirement status effective July 15, 2003. He resided most of the time since then in the family home in Abington. But he readily made himself available to celebrate Mass in local parishes, including Our Lady of the Lake, Halifax; and for an extended time at Holy Redeemer in Chatham, where former student, friend, and ultimately the homilist at his funeral Mass, Father Jon-Paul Gallant, was then the pastor.

Until a couple years ago, he entertained family and friends at the "Buckley Estate" in Abington. He moved permanently to Regina Cleri but still was out and about until very recently when his health rapidly declined.

Father Buckley's funeral Mass was celebrated, according to detailed and specific "requests" made years prior, at St. Bridget Church, Abington, on June 24, 2022. The principal celebrant, as he had requested, was fellow Latin School alumnus and former student, Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey, Bishop Arthur Kennedy, also a Latin School alumnus, was among the more than 30 concelebrants. True to his request, priests wore violet vestments, the same color vestment in which Father Buckley was vested in his coffin. In addition to Father Gallant who was the homilist, fellow senior priests from Regina Cleri were there, including Msgr. William Helmick, Father John Nichols, Father Henry Nichols, Father William Pearsall, Father John Mulloy, Father Robert Doherty, Father Joseph Gaudet (some of them had also been Father Buckley's seminary students). Other fellow senior priests included Msgr. Paul Garrity and Father Allan Butler. Former students and former fellow seminary faculty members included: Father Stephen Salocks, rector of St. John Seminary; Father William Palardy, St. Agatha, Milton; Father Thomas Nestor, pastor of both of Hingham's parishes, the latter two also fellow alumni of Harvard College.

Father Joseph Manarchuck came the farthest from Scranton, Penn.; and recently named Msgr. Marc Montminy came from Salem, N.H.

Among other Boston priests present were Father Robert Casey, pastor of Gate of Heaven and St. Brigid, South Boston, who said, "I always enjoyed Tom's company. At the Florida retreats; and especially at my annual Labor Day cookouts for priests which he enjoyed, it seemed, more than I did." Father David Brogan, who had come to know Father Buckley apart from seminary and on his retirement said, "I learned a lot about being a priest from him even without having had him as a seminary professor." Former St. Bridget pastor, Father James Mahoney, presently at St. Veronica, Burlington had likewise come to know Father Buckley while he was Father Mahoney's "parishioner" in retirement in Abington.

Father Gallant's homily, again following Father Buckely's "directives," brought together Father Buckley's love of sacred scripture, especially St. Paul, and his life's work. He had stories of Rome, Abington, Essex, and of the seminary. And, as instructed, he did not "canonize" him but rather asked all for prayers for him.

Bishop Hennessey commended his friend and one-time teacher with words of affection and gratitude for Father Buckley's (as he always called him) priestly example.

Following the funeral Mass, Father Buckley was buried in the Buckley family lot at St. Patrick Cemetery, Rockland.