Obituary: Father Richard Powers, former Belmont pastor

A longtime personal friend and onetime associate pastor of St. Luke Parish, Belmont, Father Leonard O’Malley, presently pastor at St. Malachy, Burlington, was the principal celebrant of the Funeral Mass celebrated on Dec. 12 for Father Richard J. Powers, a senior priest of the archdiocese who served as pastor of the Belmont parish from 1974-1996. The homilist for the funeral Mass celebrated at St. Luke’s was Father Michael Byron, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis assigned to the faculty of St. Thomas University in St. Paul.

Richard John Powers was born in Boston on May 30, 1920 the seventh and last surviving child of the late John and Elizabeth (Boyle) Powers. His early education was at St. Peter School, Cambridge. Father Kevin O’Leary present pastor of St. Peter Parish recalled how much “Father Powers loved this parish and came back following his retirement to assist us.” Father graduated from Boston College High School and attended The New England Conservatory of Music before entering the archdiocesan seminaries at Brighton. On completion of his seminary formation, Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 1, 1947.

A priest with a well earned reputation for an expansive vision of the Church, Father Powers had only four assignments during his active priestly ministry and none was further than six miles from his home in Cambridge. For one who had broad interests and widely scattered friends, both priests and lay, Father Powers was never limited in his outlook.

He was assigned as an assistant at Our Lady of the Assumption, East Boston (1947-1951) and at St. Cecilia, Boston (1951-1954). In 1954 he was named to the faculty of St. Sebastian School, then in Newton, where as a teacher, but especially as the Drama Society of which he was the director. He influenced several generations of alumni during his 20-year assignment. During 17 of those years he was a weekend assistant at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Hanson and gladly made the trek from Newton to Hanson to assist the pastor.

In 1974 he received his fourth and last assignment, pastor of St. Luke’s in Belmont’s Waverly section. While there he enhanced the handsome English Gothic church and enlivened the liturgical life of the parish, emphasizing the importance of active participation especially through music in the liturgy. The rectory became a literal mini-seminary with seminarians from the archdiocesan seminary, St. John’s and the Jesuit seminary, Weston regularly assigned to the parish. Years after subsequent assignments priests would return for visits, and not infrequently those who were pursuing graduate studies in local universities found ready welcome and fraternal accommodations.

Never a wall flower nor one to stop serving, Father Powers assisted for a number of years following his retirement at his boyhood home parish in Cambridge until his declining health required greater care and he took up residence at neighboring Youville House in Cambridge. Within the past year he needed even greater care which he received at St. Patrick Manor, Framingham.

He peacefully breathed his last at the Framingham facility on Dec. 7.

At press time the list of the concelebrants of his funeral had not been completed, but the available names give an indication of Father Powers’s relationships and influence. A native son of the parish and Boston’s vicar general, Father Richard Erikson; Father Richard Mehm, pastor of Immaculate Conception, Malden and vicar in the North Region, who was once a deacon intern with Father Powers; Father Stephen Salocks a longtime friend and faculty member at St. John’s Seminary; Father Ronald Falco, pastor of St. George, Worcester, who served at St. Luke’s during his seminary years. Among the Jesuits was Father Bruce Biddinger, of the Maryland province presently assigned at St. Joseph University, Philadelphia.

Father Powers is survived by two nieces and a nephew. Following the Funeral Mass he was buried in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge.