Re-named conference rooms honor priests and religious

BRIGHTON -- Various upgrades and improvements to the facilities and offices of the Archdiocese of Boston’s chancery occur on a regular basis. Recently four conference rooms in the main building were re-furnished and modified to make them available for wider use and easier access.

Each of the updated conference rooms has been “re-named” in honor of our well-known and highly respected priests and religious in recent archdiocesan history.

Sister Katherine O’Toole, SC

A Boston native who was a member of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax from 1952 until her death in 1990 after lingering illness, Sister Katherine O’Toole served her own congregation as a teacher, counselor and principal in New York and as the general superior of the Sisters of Charity.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law named her co-vicar for religious, a position which was new for a woman religious in the archdiocese. Sister Katherine’s own style and personality helped give the new job a focus and a prominence. She became a very valuable participant in archdiocesan matters well beyond her own position and served as a valuable collaborator with the cardinal.

Msgr. William C. Francis

Of the four names chosen for the conference rooms, this one would bring the greatest number of knowing nods and winks from those who knew Msgr. William Francis, especially the priests.

Msgr. Francis was known for his deep dedication to the city of Boston and especially to the burgeoning Hispanic population. He himself had served with the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle in South America. He loved the Hispanic people he served and they, in turn, loved him. He inherited some of his missionary zeal from his uncle, Boston’s own, Cardinal Richard Cushing.

Msgr. Francis was born in South Boston in 1932, Cardinal Cushing ordained him on Feb. 3, 1958 and he died on March 20, 2006. He retired from parish ministry on July 20, 2004.

Most priests, at least, would agree that if Msgr. Francis could respond to this conference room naming, it would be with a boisterous “What?” Nevertheless it’s good to walk by his name and be reminded of what anything that happens in any chancery office is to be about -- service.

Msgr. Peter F. Hart

A Newton native and a son of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish there, Peter Hart was born Nov. 24, 1909. Msgr. Hart was an alumnus of Boston College and St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal O’Connell ordained him to the priesthood on May 22, 1936. He died on June 3, 2003.

Msgr. Hart’s life was in the parish. He served in parochial assignments in Blessed Sacrament Parish, Quincy; St. Catherine of Genoa Parish, Somerville; St. James the Greater Parish, Boston; and St. William Parish, Dorchester. He was named pastor of St. Jude Parish, Norfolk (1963-1966) and pastor of St. Clement Parish, Somerville (1966-1985) He retired from Somerville in 1985 but continued to serve for many years in archdiocesan parishes, notably at St. Pius Fifth Parish, Lynn.

Pope Paul VI named him a domestic prelate with the title of “reverend monsignor” on March 13, 1967. Pope John Paul II named him a protonotary apostolic on May 28, 1985.

Msgr. Hart was loved by priests -- those with whom he served and those whom he knew, each category included many. The people of his Somerville-Medford parish revered him. He had a special ability to govern gently but firmly.

Msgr. John J. Philbin

Known or unknown to him personally, Msgr. John Philbin was one of the greater vocation promoters of the archdiocese. Especially during his tenure at Holy Name Parish, West Roxbury, the parish sprouted vocations. One of Msgr. Philbin’s altar boys was Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y. and another was Father Arthur Kennedy, incoming rector of St. John’s Seminary.

Msgr. John Philbin was born on July 11, 1918 and Archbishop Cushing ordained him on Aug. 18, 1944. He served in parish assignments in West Roxbury, Roxbury (St. John- St. Hugh) and finally as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Wellesley from which he retired on June 15, 1993.