Obituary: Father William Commane, former pastor in Saugus

Father William J. Commane Pilot file photo

Father William J. Commane, former pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Saugus and a priest of the archdiocese for more than 57 years, died in Danville, Calif. on Aug. 2. He has been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.

The only son of Irish immigrant parents William and Margaret (Reidy) Commane, he was raised in Dorchester’s St. William Parish. He was born Oct. 2, 1921 and was a graduate of Boston College High School, Class of 1939 and of Boston College in 1943. At both Jesuit institutions he was an outstanding athlete gaining fame on the gridiron, the baseball diamond and the hockey rink. His fabled athletic career at BC High and Boston College was crowned with induction into the BC Hall of Fame in 1981.

After graduation from Boston College he entered the United States Navy; the United States was in the midst of World War II at the time. Finishing military service in 1946 he entered St. John’s Seminary and Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood on April 11, 1951, at Holy Cross Cathedral.

Following ordination he was assigned as an assistant at St. Francis Xavier in Weymouth. He would be an assistant at three other parishes: St. John the Evangelist, Wellesley in 1954; Immaculate Conception, Everett (1955-1966); and St. Agnes, Reading (1966-1974). All his assignments were large and growing parishes with scores of young people active in CYO or parish schools or both.

In 1974 Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor at St. Margaret in Saugus where he would serve for more than 22 years. During his tenure at Saugus he was known to “run a tight ship.” Reflecting on his service at Saugus he told The Pilot at his retirement, “The people of Saugus are wonderful people. I’ll tell you I think I became a better priest while serving them.” Cardinal Bernard Law named him a senior priest of the archdiocese on July 1, 1996, just a few months shy of his 75th birthday.

A priest who always enjoyed the company of other priests, he counted among his close friends--and golf “partners”--the late Father Joseph Ryan; and Fathers Ed Gillis, Bob Tyrrell, Gerry Barry and Dick Johnson the latter two senior priests in residence at Regina Cleri.

Bishop Francis Irwin was the principal celebrant of Father Commane’s funeral Mass at St. Margaret Church on Aug. 9. Another of his close priest friends, Father John McElroy, was the homilist.

Father Commane is survived by his sister, Mary O’Sullivan of Danville, Calif., a niece and two nephews. Following his funeral Mass Father Commane was buried in New Calvary Cemetery, Mattapan.

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