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Obituary: Father Thomas, former Jamaica Plain pastor


Father John E. Thomas Pilot file photo

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He was for almost a quarter century the pastor on St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boston’s Jamaica Plain section when he retired in 2000. Father John E. “Jack” Thomas died on Easter Sunday, April 8 at Metro-West Medical Center in Framingham.

A Lowell native where he was born on Dec. 10, 1924, he was a son of the late John and Christina (Martin) Thomas. After his graduation from Lowell High School he attended Boston College and entered St. John’s Seminary. On completion of his seminary formation Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 3, 1950.

From his ordination until 1960 he served as an assistant in four archdiocesan parishes: St. Philip Neri, Newton (1950-1955); St. Mary, Chelmsford (1955-1958); St. Michael, Lowell (1958-1959) and St. James, Salem (1959-1960).

For the next 10 years (1960-1970), Father Thomas would serve with the fledgling Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle in Peru. He loved being there and he was well enough loved by the members of the society who served with him that in 1998 a library was named for him at the society’s center house in Peru.

On his return Father Thomas was named an associate at St. Paul Parish, Dorchester and one year later he was appointed director of the St. James Society and at the same time served as administrator of St. Stephen Parish in Boston’s North End, the official Boston “home” of the society.

On Dec. 17, 1974, one week after his 50th birthday, Father Thomas was named pastor of one of Boston’s great parishes, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jamaica Plain. The storied parish had been the home of the early Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston as well as having a parish grammar and high school.

Times were changing and so was the parish, but Father Thomas seemed to be the right one to shepherd the parish through the changes. Although the schools closed, he helped keep the parish alive; he renewed the remaining facilities and renovated the church according to the liturgical guidelines following the Second Vatican Council.

On May 7, 2000, Father Thomas celebrated his golden jubilee as a priest at St. Thomas Church. The well-attended Mass was a sure indication of the appreciation of a grateful parish. Cardinal Bernard Law granted him senior priest status on Aug. 1, 2000.

Central Regional Bishop Robert Hennessey, himself an alumnus of the St. James Society, was the principal celebrant of Father Thomas’s funeral on April 11 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Father William Pearsall, a fellow Lowell native and another St. James Society alumnus was the homilist. Among the concelebrants of the funeral Mass were Msgr. Paul Ryan, Fathers Charles Anadore, Louis Bourgeois, John Connolly, George Emerson, Daniel Sheehan, Gabriel Troy, and Vincent Von Euw.

Father’s survivors are his sister Eleanor Prendergast, Pelham, N.H. and a brother Edward, Arlington, Virg. Following the funeral Mass Father Thomas was buried in St. Patrick Cemetery, Lowell.

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