Three granted senior priest status

Cardinal-designate Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has announced that he has granted senior priest/retirement status to three archdiocesan priests.

The pastor of St. Isidore parish in Stow, Father Richard Butler becomes a senior priest on June 30, 2006. Father Richard Gosselin presently pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ayer will retire on June 1, 2006. Father Robert Thomas, who has been a member of the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle since 1976 and served most recently as its director, retired on Feb. 15, 2006.

Father Richard Butler

A priest of the archdiocese since Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood on Feb. 2, 1962 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross — a ceremony in which his twin brother, Robert, the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Pepperell was also ordained — Father Butler has served in a number of parishes and in a variety of ministries in the archdiocese and beyond.

A son of St. Theresa of Avila Parish in Boston’s West Roxbury section, he attended local public schools and the Boston Latin School. He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester before entering St. John Seminary. He was named an assistant at St. Mary, Foxborough following ordination, in September 1966. He moved to Blessed Sacrament, Cambridge and in 1970 to Our Lady of Sorrows. In both places he also was an assistant. He served also as executive secretary of the archdiocesan Liturgical Commission during his service at Sharon.

In 1975, Father Butler was appointed director of the Center for Pastoral Liturgy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. for a three-year term. Father Butler has been not only academically formed in liturgy but also shaped by the renewal of the liturgy prompted by the Second Vatican Council. For a number of years he wrote a weekly column in this newspaper on “Pastoral Liturgy.”

On his return to the archdiocese in 1978 Father Butler assumed a new and quite different challenge when he was named chaplain at Braintree’s Archbishop William High School, he lived in residence at the Maryknoll Seminary in Hingham and then at Sts. Peter and Paul Rectory in South Boston.

In 1981 he returned to parish ministry as associate pastor at Holy Family in Rockland. In 1985 he was named pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Cambridge and in 1989 he was named pastor of Sacred Heart Lexington where he served until 1994.

Father Butler was named the fourth priest director of the permanent Diaconate Program of the archdiocese in September 1994, and about the same time he was named administrator of St. Lawrence Martyr Parish, Brookline. On assuming this new role he noted that he wished to continue the work of his predecessors in the office. With customary commitment he said “Meanwhile in my own way I will give what gifts I have and I trust in the Lord that the future will be graced.” On completion of his assignment in that office and parish, Father Butler was named pastor of St. Timothy Parish, Norwood in 1996 and at St. Isidore Parish in Stow in 1999.

While his retirement status brings to an end official assignments, Father Butler’s trust that the “future will be graced” continues.

Father Richard Gosselin

A Lawrence native where he was born on Aug. 8, 1932 Father Richard B. Gosselin was ordained to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral by Cardinal Richard Cushing on Feb. 2, 1959. He completed his seminary studies at St. John Seminary, Boston.

Between his ordination in 1959 and his first assignments as pastor in 1976 Father Gosselin was an assistant in several archdiocesan parishes: St. Mary of the Nativity, Scituate (1959-1961); Our Lady of Grace, Chelsea (1961-1964); Our Lady of the Rosary, Stoughton (1964-1970); St. Joseph, Woburn (1970-1972); and St. Mary, Ayer (1972-1976). Father Gosselin had been all over the archdiocese, serving at least one assignment in what are now each of the five pastoral regions of the archdiocese.

In 1976 he was named pastor at the large metropolitan parish, St. Joseph, Medford. In 1987 he was named pastor of the seaside community Newburyport’s venerable Immaculate Conception Parish. On leaving Newburyport he attended a priestly renewal program in Chicago during the fall of 1993.

Renewed by the experience in Chicago he returned to the archdiocese being named parochial vicar in three parishes between 1994 and 1996: Holy Family, Rockland; St. Joseph, Malden; and St. Mary of the Sacred Heart, Hanover.

Cardinal Law assigned him to familiar territory as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ayer. He had previously been an assistant there from 1972-1976.

Father Gosselin’s retirement become effective on June 1, 2006.

Father Robert Thomas

Father Robert W. Thomas, a Milton native, was born Feb. 17, 1933. After completing his seminary studies at St. John, Brighton he was ordained at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury by auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah Minihan on Feb. 2, 1961.

Father Thomas’ first assignment was as an assistant at St. Camillus Parish in Arlington. The parish, located in the town’s southwest corner, was growing rapidly. After six year at St. Camillus he served briefly as an assistant at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Wellesley. In 1968 he was named an assistant at St. Alphonsus Parish in Beverly serving Catholics both in the city of Beverly and the town of Danvers.

In 1973 he traveled from Beverly down Route 1A to Our Lady of Lourdes in Revere where he was associate pastor until 1976 and returned along the same route, north again, to be associate at St. James, Salem.

His missionary zeal was realized during our country’s bicentennial when in September 1976 Cardinal Humberto Medeiros released him for service in the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle.

For the next 26 years he labored in the Society’s missions in South America. Winning the admiration of many of his brother priests of the Society not only for missionary commitment but also for genial personality and concern for each his brother priests, he was elected by the Society’s membership and served as director of the Society for a three-year term beginning in February 2003 and ending in February 2006.

Father Thomas was able to take a break from missionary activity during his service in South America; he had priestly renewal programs at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge in the spring of 1987 and the Pontifical North American College at Rome in the spring of 1997.

During his retirement Father Thomas is returning “south” but not as far south as he had been. He will be living in his own home in Florida.