byChristopher S. Pineo
Father Richard C. Conway Pilot file photo
Father Richard C. Conway, known in some Boston neighborhoods as Father Doc, didn't go into ministry to change the world.
"I don't think anybody goes in to a seminary with the idea that they want to become a bishop or a pope, you know, you go in with the idea that you want to do parish work. At least for me that's what it was," he said.
Even though he received the Crime Fighter of the Year award from the Boston Police Department in 2012, Father Conway said the work he is known for, reaching out to young people and communities in Boston, grew from listening to people and getting out into the neighborhood.
"As you listen to people in a parish, you find, whether you're walking or just outside church, that they love to see the priest out there," he said.
Born in 1937, he said his calling to serve as a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston came over time as a result of his family life and his parish life.
The second in a family of six, Father Conway's father pursued a vocation to the priesthood as a younger man, but later became a doctor. His older sister pursued her religious vocation throughout her youth.
"My sister always wanted to be a nun, from the time she was probably a sophomore in high school, and wanted to be in the missions," he said.
She pursued her vocation throughout high school, and left for Peru as a Marist Missionary Sister in 1964.
"When I finished high school, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do," Father Conway said.
By the fifth grade Father Conway had picked up the nickname "Doc" after his father, but even then had no interest in becoming a doctor like his father and two of his brothers.
To find his own path, he drew on the inspiration of his parish life at Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury, as well as his family and friends.
"Fortunately, in the parish I grew up in the priests were very active, very involved with the people, so this is what I am seeing as what I want to do," Father Doc said.
After he graduated from Saint John's Seminary in 1963, he received ordination at the hands of Bishop Eric F. MacKenzie with five other men from the parish.
At St. Patrick's in Lowell, where he first became a pastor in 1987, and over time at other parishes, he picked up Portuguese and some Spanish to help him connect with people.
His ministry found definition in connecting communities and neighbors together in the streets -- often literally.
He helped organize neighborhood watches, neighborhood block parties, and encouraged neighbors to be involved with each other as his ministry reached Dorchester in parishes he intends to continue serving -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Peter, and Holy Family.
He said this new phase in his priesthood brings the opportunity to keep doing what he has been doing in Boston neighborhoods recently, but he encouraged men and women called to make a similar difference in the world to simply listen.
"We obviously need more vocations, and if somebody is waiting to get hit over the head by lightning, it's probably not going to happen for most people. So, you just try to listen and see what the Lord wants you to do," he said.