Obituary: Father Francis C. O’Hare, former seminary faculty and retired pastor

After a long and courageous battle with esophageal cancer, Father Francis C. O’Hare died at St. Robert Bellarmine rectory in Andover where he had served as senior priest in residence since his retirement as pastor of St. Athanasius Parish in Reading in 1997. He would have been 83 on May 26.

The son of the late Doctor James and Mrs. Mary (Minton) O’Hare, he was predeceased by his sister Mary Hara, and brother James and Harry. His father was a well-known physician in the Boston area and served as the doctor for Boston’s Cardinal William O’Connell.

Father O’Hare was a proud alumnus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and a veteran of Naval service during World War II. After that war, he was among the first Americans to enter the re-opened Pontifical North American College in Rome. His theological formation was at the Gregorian University. He was ordained to the priesthood in the seminary chapel on July 16, 1951 by the seminary’s rector, Bishop Martin J. O’Connor. He used to delight in his unique position of that ordination group of four: “The other three all became bishops” he would proclaim with his usual self-deprecating humor and smile.

On his return to the United States he was an assistant at two parishes: St. Mary of the Assumption, Revere (1952-1955) and briefly at Sacred Heart, Cambridge (1955). He returned to Rome as assistant superior of the Casa, which was now the house for the American priests returning to Rome for graduate studies in various fields. As one of those priests, he completed work on his doctorate in sacred theology and was awarded the doctorate in moral theology from the “Greg.” In 1959 he returned again to the U.S. and was named an assistant at St. Mary Parish, Dedham.

In June 1960 Cardinal Cushing assigned him to the faculty of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. There he had a lasting effect on several generations of seminarians in a career lasting some 15 years. First as a teacher and then in later years as director of field education, he showed a genuine interest in future priests and really wanted them to be as happy as he always seemed to be as a priest.

In 1975 he was named pastor at St. Ann Parish in Somerville and he made sure that while it served as a kind of laboratory or teaching parish for diocesan and Jesuit seminarians, deacons and students priests, he never lost touch with the people. He never asked you to do what he himself would not also do. He listened to people and encouraged the sharing of ideas, often from very different points of view.

He loved having the huge rectory filled, whether with the assigned priests or deacons, other members of the large pastoral staff or support staff. He really treated everyone like his own family.

In Somerville he enjoyed the support and administrative gifts of the late Father Angelo Loscocco, one of the parochial vicars and an alumnus of Boston College. The annual late November football rivalry between BC and Holy Cross inevitably led to a friendly wager, animated viewing and postgame reviewing.

In 1987 he finished 12 years at St. Ann’s and went on a priestly renewal program to Menlo Park, Calif. He was never afraid of anything new and relished learning. On his return he took up a new challenge as pastor of St. Athanasius Parish in Reading. For 10 years he brought the same enthusiasm and interest that had marked his previous assignments to the growing suburban parish. He retired to St. Robert Bellarmine’s in 1997 and was as actively involved as if he were anything but a senior priest.

Bishop Francis Irwin was scheduled to be the celebrant of Father O’Hare’s funeral Mass on May 14 at St. Robert Bellarmine’s. The parish’s pastor, Father Richard T. Conway was to be the homilist and joining them as concelebrants were among others Msgr. John McDonough, Fathers Richard Johnson and Arthur Driscoll, senior priests of the archdiocese and Father James McCune of the Office for Senior Priests, as well as archdiocesan vicar general, Father Richard Erikson.

Father O’Hare was buried in Holyhood Cemetery, Brookline. His sister Marguerite “Midge” McCarthy of Natick survives him.