Obituary: Father Bernard P. McLaughlin, former pastor, seminary faculty member

Father Bernard P. McLaughlin Pilot file photo

One of the archdiocese’s most visible priests and one who by general admission was also one of the most academically brilliant, Father Bernard P. McLaughlin died following protracted illnesses at Life Care Center of the North Shore in Lynn on July 27; he would have been 75 years old on Aug. 12.

A son of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Boston’s Allston section, he was born in the “Hub” and in a real sense always considered himself a citizen of the city set on a hill. He attended the prestigious Boston Latin School and following graduation he entered archdiocesan seminaries. Auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah Minihan ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury on Feb. 2, 1959.

After a brief stint of 18 months at St. John the Baptist Parish in Peabody, he was assigned in September 1960 to graduate studies at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo. During the following years while he continued those studies, he spent summers in the archdiocese serving at St. Brigid in South Boston and then at St. Isidore in Stow.

He returned to the archdiocese in 1963 and was assigned as chaplain at Nazareth Academy in Wakefield with residence at the town’s St. Joseph Rectory. In May 1964 he was appointed to the faculty of St. John Seminary, Brighton. Not yet 31, he was one of the youngest men ever appointed to the seminary faculty.

For the next 13 years he taught philosophy. His staccato style and machine gun-like lectures caused many a writer’s cramp in the philosophers. If you missed something or needed a clarification he seemed always available. He also liked to get discussions going outside of class. He relished his students’ inquiries and especially delighted in skewering your arguments--no matter which side of the issue you chose.

Late in his seminary career he accepted the further responsibility of celebrating Mass at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Airways, which he turned into a parish. He moved out of the seminary in 1977 and became full-time chaplain at Logan Airport. In 1983 he was named administrator and in 1985 as pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston, while remaining chaplain at the airport.

In this dual role he served multiple communities: longtime parishioners in East Boston and newly arriving immigrants coming to Holy Redeemer parish. Among his enduring contributions was the establishment of the Crossroads Shelter, a transitional living facility housed in the parish’s empty convent. His fellow Latin School alumnus, former student, and successor at East Boston, Bishop Robert Hennessey said “Bernie taught us ethics in the seminary and then he taught us how to put it into action by what he did in East Boston.”

Meantime, the travelers and pilgrims coursing through Logan each day were beneficiaries of his “airport Masses’’ so dubbed because of their brevity to accommodate travelers’ needs. He was omnipresent to the more stable groups of pilots, attendants, state police and airport staff.

In 1995 he made a dramatic move out of Boston: he was named pastor at St. Gerard Majella Parish in Canton. Once again he showed brilliance in challenging the parish to reach beyond itself and yet making it a home and center of activity for all generations. Never shy about expressing his opinions, always backed up by sound reason and a sharp wit, his weekly bulletin columns were read well beyond the parish’s borders, giving readers food for thought, ideas for action or points for prayer.

Just about two years ago he was beset by multiple health problems demanding an early retirement from his parish. He stayed for awhile in residence, but he needed more care than he could receive at the rectory. His longtime friend and former student Msgr. Paul V. Garrity, with fraternal solicitude, took over Bernie’s care and he moved closer to Paul, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Lynn, residing at Life Care of the North Shore in Lynn.

Father McLaughlin’s funeral services were celebrated at St. Gerard Parish with the reception of his body on July 31 by Msgr. Garrity. Archdiocesan Vicar General Father Richard Erikson was also present. The lying state followed.

His funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Gerard on Aug. 1 with South Regional Bishop John Dooher as the principal celebrant, Msgr. Paul Garrity as the homilist and a host of priests concelebrating--classmates, friends and former students--among them were Father James McCune of the Office for Senior Priests and the present pastor of the parish, Father John Sullivan.

Following the funeral Mass Father McLaughlin was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery, Roslindale. His brother Francis of Kensington, Md. is his immediate survivor, and he also leaves four nieces and two nephews.

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