Obituary: Father Joseph Svirskas, former Haverhill, North Andover pastor

Father Joseph J. Svirskas a priest of the archdiocese since his ordination on April 11, 1951 by Archbishop Richard J. Cushing at Holy Cross Cathedral, died in Hamilton on Jan. 29; he was 90 years old.

Born in Nashua, N.H. on March 10, 1926, he was a son of the late Peter and Nellie (Knisute) Svirskas. The family moved to Haverhill where his father, a Lithuanian immigrant, labored in the mills prevalent across that city at the time.

Following high school graduation, he attended Boston College and was a member of the class of 1947 at the Heights; as more than a few did at the time, he left BC following sophomore year and entered St. John's Seminary.

After his ordination he was assigned as a "summer assistant" at Star of the Sea, Salisbury. From 1951 to 1974 he was an assistant or associate in several archdiocesan parishes: St. Pius Fifth, Lynn (1951-1953); St. Joseph (Lithuanian), Lowell (1953-1954); St. George (Lithuanian), Norwood (1954-1961); St. Peter (Lithuanian) South Boston (1961-1972); and St. Mary, Billerica (1972-1974).

Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St. George (Lithuanian) Parish in Haverhill in 1974 -- returning him to his hometown. Bernard Cardinal Law named him pastor of St. Michael Parish in North Andover where he served from 1985 to 1993. During this time, he was also for a term an episcopal vicar (Haverhill Vicariate, Lowell Region).

Granted senior priest retirement status that year, he returned to residence in Haverhill and then to Hamilton. During these years he also assistant at parishes in the Merrimack Valley and in southern New Hampshire.

Immensely proud of his Lithuanian heritage, he served many of his priestly years in Lithuanian parishes. Equally proud of his alumni status at Boston College, he was an avid fan of the Eagles football team and on any given Saturday he was perched in Section R of Alumni Stadium, often with a nephew or other family member.

Merrimack Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey was the principal celebrant of Father Svirskas's funeral Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Derry, N.H. Father Thomas Keyes, pastor of our Lady of Hope Parish, Ipswich was the homilist; concelebrants included: Msgr. Albert Contons, Regina Cleri Residence, Boston; Father John Mulloy, parochial vicar, St. Joseph, Malden; and Father Philip Pacheco, OFM, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. Father Svirskas was buried in St. Patrick Cemetery, Haverhill.