Obituary: Msgr. Albert J. Contons, oldest and most senior priest of the archdiocese
Until just a few weeks ago, he was regularly returning to his home parish in South Boston to celebrate Mass. So, although he was just two months shy of his 99th birthday and three months shy of his 75th anniversary of ordination, the death on March 1, 2023, of Msgr. Albert J. Contons was very much a surprise.
Born in South Boston on May 11, 1924, he was one of the four children of the late Stephen and Victoria (Galdikas) Contons, both immigrants from Lithuania; in addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his three siblings: John, Stephen, and Ruth Slanina.
Raised in the tightly knit South Boston Lithuanian community, where the parish, St. Peter, was the focus of much of the social life as well as the center of religious formation, he attended the John Boyle O'Reilly School in Southie, and was an alumnus of the Boston Public Latin School, Class of 1941.
He entered St. John Seminary and was ordained to the priesthood at Holy Cross Ca thedral by Archbishop Richard J. Cushing on May 6, 1948. He was just five days short of his 24th birthday.
In an unusual, but not unheard of appointment, his first assignment was to his home parish, St. Peter (Lithuanian) in South Boston. He served there for five years before he was named to the faculty of St. Sebastian School, then at its Newton campus. His 20 years at the school would be the longest single assignment he would have.
While at St. Sebastian, he was also the chaplain for the nearby Cenacle Convent from 1962 to 1973. Not only was he chaplain to the Religious of the Cenacle, but also assisted with the retreats and spiritual programs the Sisters offered at their Lake Street home and retreat house.
In 1973, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St Margaret Parish in Beverly. It would be the assignment that was the farthest from his home territory. In 1985, Archbishop Bernard F. Law brought him home, naming him first as administrator and then pastor of his home parish.
During the next 13 years, he would see enormous changes and not a few controversies affect the parish and indeed all of South Boston. The parish was, however, a beacon for Lithuanian Catholics who had in many cases moved from Southie. The personal relationships and cultural ties remained tight even if the community was more widely spread.
He served as the director of the Archdiocesan Lithuanian Apostolate from 1991-1993. In April 1998, he was named with 32 other priests of the archdiocese as a Prelate of Honor with the title of Reverend Monsignor by Pope St. John Paul II.
In 1998, following the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination, he was granted senior priest status. Following his retirement, he lived first in Scituate before moving to Regina Cleri in Boston's West End in 2013.
Msgr. Contons's funeral Mass is scheduled to be celebrated at St. Peter (Lithuanian) Church on March 11, 2023. He is to be buried with his family at New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan, on March 13, 2023.