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Obituary: Father John G. Connolly, 'Singing Priest' and Wrentham pastor

By Father Robert M. O'Grady
Posted: 1/8/2016

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Father John G. Connolly Pilot file photo

A native of Portland, Maine, he was born July 8, 1935, a son of the late Peter and Mary (Folan) Connolly. He attended archdiocesan seminaries at Cardinal O'Connell, Jamaica Plain and St. John's, Brighton.

Richard Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at the cathedral on Feb. 2, 1963. That February there were five ordinations to accommodate the large class of Bostonians. The cardinal had ordained another group in Gloucester on Feb. 1; and the three auxiliary bishops each ordained a group at three churches across the archdiocese on Feb. 2.

Following ordination Father Connolly was assigned as an assistant or an associate or parochial vicar at several archdiocesan parishes: Immaculate Conception, Stoughton (1963-1970 and 1981-1992); St. Francis Xavier, Weymouth (1970-1980); St. Mary Magdalen, Tyngsborough (1992); St. Thomas Aquinas, Bridgewater (1993). In 1994 Cardinal Bernard Law assigned him as administrator of St. Mary, Wrentham and a few months later, in January 1995 he was named pastor of the parish.

Wrentham was a growing town at the edge of the archdiocese; the physical plant, both church and rectory, were becoming inadequate. Father Connolly led the parish in recognizing and responding to these needs and the parish church was expanded and the rectory was replaced. After two terms as pastor he was granted senior priest status in 2007 and resided first at St. Margaret Mary Rectory, Westwood and later at his own residence in Harwich; he had been briefly a resident at Regina Cleri, Boston and more recently at Marian Manor, South Boston, where he died on Dec. 28, 2015.

During his long "two term" tenure at Immaculate Conception, Stoughton he ministered to the large Portuguese speaking community there, mastering the language, and serving as coordinator of the Portuguese Apostolate of the archdiocese (1993-1995). He was also a member of the "Singing Priests" of the archdiocese and was with that team a familiar face at events, fund raisers and Christmas entertainment across parishes and institutions.

A fellow member of the "Singing Priests" and also once a fellow associate at St. Francis Xavier, Weymouth, South Regional Bishop John A. Dooher was the principal celebrant of Father Connolly's funeral Mass at St. Mary, Wrentham of Dec. 31, 2015. The homilist was Father Stephen F. Concannon, a priest of the diocese of Portland and a longtime friend of Father Connolly. Among the many concelebrants were classmate Father Richard "Doc" Conway; and Father Joseph Mozer and Father William Schmidt, respectively pastor and parochial vicar of both the Wrentham parish and St. Martha Parish, Plainville.

Father Connolly's siblings, Peter, Billerica; Mary Goulding, Portland, Maine; Sarah Candelieri, Merrimac; and Francis, Reading, are his immediate survivors. He was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, West Roxbury following the funeral Mass.