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Obituary: Father Thomas Conway former Reading pastor

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 10/30/2009

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Father Thomas D. Conway Pilot photo

Father Thomas D. Conway, the pastor of St. Athanasius Parish in Reading from 1987 to 2005 died on Oct. 25 at St. Patrick Manor, Framingham. He was 75.

A Medford native he was born there on June 15, 1934, the son of the late John and Helen (Hurley) Conway. He attended local schools and was graduated from Malden Catholic High School before beginning his college career at Boston College. He achieved the rare rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. He was granted a Master of Arts in Religious Education from Emmanuel College in 1970.

He completed his seminary studies at St. John’s, Brighton and Richard Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at the cathedral on Feb. 2, 1960. For 14 years following his ordination he was an assistant in two parishes: Immaculate Conception, Marlborough (1960-1969) and St. John the Baptist, Haverhill (1969-1974). While assigned to Haverhill he was also the Chaplain of the North Essex District Court.

Between 1973 and 1976 he was an assistant director in the Archdiocesan Office for Religious Education; during this time he served also in residence at Corpus Christi Parish in Newton’s Auburndale section. His interest in religious education and formation extended to his writing three books “Forming Catechists”; “Creative Activity”; “Journey into the Spirit.”

In 1976 he returned to parish ministry as an associate at St. Patrick Parish, Lawrence where he served for five years and assumed the additional responsibility of Chaplin to the Juvenile Court of Lawrence District Court.

He returned south to Boston when Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Charlestown and then a few years later and just a few miles away he was named pastor of St. Margaret Parish, Dorchester in 1985. During the 12 years he was pastor he saw notable changes in the composition of the Dorchester parish, and yet his able stewardship kept the parish on steady ground and saw needed improvements to the physical plant. Not busy enough at the parish he also served at this time as Archdiocesan Coordinator of Prison Ministries (1987-1994) and also a vicar in the Central Region (1996-1997).

Cardinal Law named him pastor of St. Athanasius Parish in suburban Reading; for the first time he was serving in a parish that was not a “city parish.” Once again he set to the task with his usual zeal and won the ready cooperation of parishioners and staff. Archbishop O’Malley granted him Senior Priest/Retirement status on Sept. 12, 2005. As his health declined he needed greater care and received it at St. Patrick Manor, Framingham.

Father Conway’s classmate and fellow Medford native, Bishop Francis Irwin was the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass at St. Athanasius Church on Oct. 29; another classmate and friend, Father James D. Lyons, senior priest at St. Francis of Assisi and St. Marguerite d’Youville Parishes in Dracut served as the homilist. Among the concelebrants were Father James McCune, office for senior priests; Father Dennis Dever, pastor, St. Clement Parish, Somerville; St. Athanasius’ present pastor, Father William Kremmel and Father John Gentleman, Team Ministry at Holy Family, Amesbury. Father Conway is survived by his sister Helen Welch of Charlotte, N. Car. Following the funeral Mass Father Conway was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Medford.