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Father Clifford will retire from Marshfield parish on Jan. 1


Father Donald P. Clifford Pilot file photo

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Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has announced that he has accepted the request of Father Donald P. Clifford to retire as pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Marshfield and also to become a senior priest of the archdiocese. Both of the cardinal’s actions in this regard are effective on Jan. 1, 2008.

Father Clifford is a native Bostonian and a son of St. Columbkille Parish in the city’s Brighton section. His seminary formation was not too far from home, the campus of the seminary being not more than a mile or so from his family’s home.

Cardinal Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on Feb. 2, 1961. His first assignment was, for a Bostonian, far away -- Amesbury. At St. Joseph Parish he found a busy parish and one of the more splendid churches of the archdiocese. Its historic significance is multiple, it served as a beacon for Irish immigrants to the Merrimack area and its many mill and factory towns, including Amesbury. Boston’s first auxiliary bishop, John Brady, had been its pastor for many years and is buried in the St. Joseph Cemetery.

From Amesbuy he began a trek back towards Boston and south. Stopping first at St. Theresa of Lisieux in North Reading from 1968-1969 he went to Newton’s Sacred Heart in 1969 and served there for 10 years. It was there that the famous dilemma was created by having two Father Donald Cliffords assigned at the parish -- more on that below!

In 1979 he moved back into the city of Boston assigned to a team ministry at St. Monica Parish, South Boston, he was subsequently also administrator and parochial vicar there. In 1984 he moved across the city to Hyde Parks where he was first administrator (1984-1985) and then pastor (1985-1992) of St. Joseph Parish.

Cardinal Bernard Law named him pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Marshfield on Sept. 15, 1998. At Marshfield he had a new parish church which set the ground for his being able to build the parish on another level, the community and services.

Shortly after his appointment to Marshfield he engaged in a priestly renewal program at Providence College in the fall of 2000.

A story of a misprint in these pages well indicates Father Clifford’s understanding of people and good humor. Careful Pilot readers might well recall that Father Clifford’s photo appeared in the obituary of the “other” Father Donald Clifford in June 2006.

When this writer called to apologize, it took a couple of tries to get to him. When we finally spoke and the apology and explanation exchanged he said “Could you please run a correction ... I don’t want my relatives taking the story and cashing in my life insurance policy.” The retort was “thanks be to God I finally got through to you, I thought maybe I ran the right photo with the wrong information!” A great laugh for both. What Father Clifford may not know is that when his name comes up, and especially at the time of the announcement of this retirement one of our brother priests called and said “Remember to get this right, he’s the one you killed a year ago June.”

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