Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has announced the appointment of Father Thomas S. Rafferty, up until now parochial vicar at St. Patrick Parish, Natick, as the new pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Swampscott. He succeeds the late Father Clyde Chetwynde who died quite suddenly on April 12.
Father Rafferty is a Cambridge native and son of the venerable St. Peter Parish. His education, from cradle to college was Catholic. His parents, James and Ellen, shaped their children from birth in prayer and the faith. Their own efforts were supported by Father Rafferty’s elementary schooling at St. Peter Grammar School; Boston College High School and Boston College -- thus among other accomplishments he’s a “double Eagle.” He has two siblings, a sister, Kathleen and a brother James married to Cathleen and a niece, Kelly and nephew, Michael -- all of Cambridge, and specifically of St. Peter Parish.
The parish’s present pastor, Father Kevin O’Leary, who is noted for his effusive praise of people, but reserves the superlative for the proper occasions leaves caution behind when it comes to the Rafferty’s. “They are a great Catholic family and are cornerstones of the parish and of this section of Cambridge.”
After obtaining a law degree from New England School of Law and working for some time as a lawyer, Father Rafferty entered Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Weston and completed his theological studies there. Archbishop O’Malley ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 21, 2005. His first and only priestly assignment has been as parochial vicar at St. Patrick, Natick.
Parish priests have rightly been described as a general practioner or “GPs,” borrowing the phrase from the medical community to describe the “family doctor.” Father Rafferty wants very much to be in that “mold” of priestly ministry, meeting the needs of people in his parish first, rather than an exclusive or excessive focus on what might be his own preferences and desires.
Asked about those men sensing a call to priesthood, and reflecting a bit on his own “delayed vocation” he advised them to think about it and to talk with a priest about it. “I know friends and classmates who wandered around for years not knowing what to do about the call...how to explore it.”
Reflecting the well-founded observation that vocations are usually mediated by someone else, i.e. the example of another priest, Father Rafferty noted that he was blessed with a number of fine priestly models: Father Bill Walsh, the late pastor of Father Rafferty’s home parish, provided some initial “nudging toward priestly life.” Two priests, each of whom hailed from Woburn, Msgr. Frank McGann and Father Ed Connolly also served as models for Father Rafferty’s “answering the call.”
As he moves to Swampscott he recalled his seminary’s alma mater with great affection, “Pope John XXIII Seminary holds a special place in my heart. Its faculty, staff and generous benefactors make it possible for many to study for the priesthood in the company of many similarly situated men.