Obituary: Father Paul O’Hearn, former seminary staff member
Boston’s retired auxiliary Bishop John P. Boles was scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass of Father Paul V. O’Hearn on Dec. 7.
A Boston native where he was born on May 21, 1934, Father O’Hearn attended local schools, Cardinal O’Connell Seminary, in Jamaica Plain and St. Clement Hall, Brighton, then the home of the philosophy program.
He was a brilliant student and was sent to pursue theological studies at Rome’s prestigious Gregorian University. While in Rome he lived with other American students at the Pontifical North American College, which only a few years before his arrival had opened its beautiful new campus on the Janiculum Hill.
His seminary studies proceeded, although he suffered a personal setback with a sudden death in his family. He could not return to the United States and the toll taken on his emotional and physical health would follow him throughout his priestly life.
He was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 20, 1959 at the Chapel of the North American College. On his return to the United States in July 1960 he served as an assistant at three parishes: St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge; St. Patrick, Natick and Immaculate Conception, Stoughton. He had a brief sick leave between the Natick and Stoughton assignments.
In 1964 Cardinal Richard Cushing appointed him librarian at Cardinal O’Connell Seminary and in 1966 he named him procurator or business and facility manager at the seminary. He tutored a generation of seminarians in Latin and other subjects, as well. With the creation of the College Seminary at St. Clement Hall in 1970, the staff and students of Cardinal O’Connell merged with those of St. Clement and Father O’Hearn arrived serving once again as tutor and counselor, as well as an on site manager of the college facility.
In January 1974 his health had so deteriorated that he was placed on health leave and lived in and was cared for in a series of longterm health care facilities from that time until his death on Dec. 3, 2007.
Priests who were students at either seminary in the late ’60s and early ’70s recall Father O’Hearn for his generosity in assisting them with their studies, as well as humorous stories about his unique style for conducting the business affairs of the seminary, whether the internal cleanliness of the building or his special gift for conducting the snow plowing operations, usually enslaving a crew of seminarians with shovels and directing a few with plows.
Equally they remember seeing sparks of a hidden brilliance which because of his lifelong health problems were frequently more hidden than evident.
Following his funeral Mass at St. Ann, Dorchester, Father O’Hearn was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, West Roxbury. Among survivors is his brother Gerard, of Hanover.