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Obituary: Father James Larner, archdiocese’s senior active parochial vicar

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 8/28/2009

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Father James M. Larner Pilot file photo

Cardinal Seán O’Malley was scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass for Father James M. Larner at the priest’s home parish, St. Ann in Boston’s Neponset section on Aug. 28. The Boston native who was the sole surviving son of the late Thomas and Mary (Conway) Larner died at Massachusetts General Hospital on Aug. 24.

An alumnus of the parish school, Boston College High School (1948), Boston College (1952) and St. John’s Seminary (1957), Auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah Minihan ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury on Feb. 2, 1957.

Father Larner held eight priestly assignments since his ordination, all of them in archdiocesan parishes: assistant at St. Barbara, Woburn (1957-1962); at St. Peter, Plymouth (1962-1963); at St. Brendan, Dorchester (1963-1977), at St. John the Evangelist, Canton (1977-1978) and at Gate of Heaven, South Boston (1978-1982).

He served for six years as pastor of his home parish, and in 1988 was named parochial vicar, first at Immaculate Conception, Weymouth and then at St. Gregory, Dorchester. He was the oldest serving parochial vicar in the archdiocese at the time of his death.

Joining the cardinal as concelebrants were Central Region Bishop Robert Hennessey; homilist and classmate of Father Larner’s, Msgr. Peter Martiocchio, senior priest, St. Jerome, Weymouth and archdiocesan vicar general, Father Richard Erikson. Among other priests indicating their attendance were classmates (and St. Ann parish native sons) Fathers Thomas C. Foley and Robert G. Pollis, Msgrs. William Glynn and Paul Ryan, both former pastors at St. Gregory as well as the present pastor, Father Vincent Daily; and other classmates, priest friends and collaborators.

Three men associated with him during his life perhaps sum up his life best. Father Kevin Toomey, pastor at St. Raphael, Medford said “He was a gentle giant, quiet and well liked” at Gate of Heaven where they were parochial vicars. Mr. Jim Doherty, another St. Ann native son who grew up with him said “He was a gentleman and a fine priest.” Boston firefighter and St. Ann native, Richard “Red’’ MacKinnon said “He was a good man and great priest. The chief and I used to love going to Mass at St. Gregory when he was celebrant. His homilies were brief and to the point.”

Following his funeral Mass Father Larner was buried in New Calvary Cemetery, in Boston’s Mattapan section.