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Beloved Burlington pastor dies in auto accident

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 10/27/2006

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Father John R. Crispo


The heart-rending news started to spread across Burlington’s St. Margaret parish by mid morning of Oct. 20. The news was the sudden death in an automobile accident in New Hampshire of the beloved Father John R. Crispo, pastor of the Burlington parish for more than a quarter century.

Father Crispo was returning home to Burlington following his annual priest’s retreat when the accident occurred in the Granite State.

A native of Somerville and a son of St. Ann parish there, John Crispo was born Jan. 10, 1926 one of the eleven children of the late Leon and Lena (Phillion) Crispo. He was graduated from Somerville High School following his elementary education at St. Ann School. In 1943 he entered Boston College and after a brief stay at the Heights he crossed Commonwealth Avenue to attend St. John Seminary in preparation for the priesthood.

At the completion of his seminary courses he was ordained on May 3, 1950 at Holy Cross Cathedral by Archbishop Richard Cushing. His fi rst assignment was to Newburyport’s Immaculate Conception Parish where he remained for the next eight years, for three of those years he served as the Haverhill Deanery vocation director.

In February 1958 he was named chaplain at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham. The school was founded to serve the special needs children of the commonwealth and during his years there, Father Crispo earned the reputation of a loving and caring father of “God’s special children.”

In November 1973, Father Crispo moved to his third and last place of priestly service, St. Margaret, Burlington. Cardinal Medeiros named him an associate pastor of the growing parish that year and a bit more than six years late he was named pastor of the parish. His combined years as associate and as pastor are one month shy of 33.

Even though he was well past the usual retirement age for pastors, Father Crispo showed a dogged termination to forge ahead for as long as God would permit. Father Crispo was a gregarious and outgoing man, he also had a twinkle in his bright eyes and you could rely on his being there. Tributes and testimonies poured in from friends and parishioners and brother priests, and these echoed his large and extended families of brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and nephews plaudits for a beloved brother and uncle.

His parishioners praise him for his priestly dedication, his fi ne homilies and adept presentation of the Catholic faith. What comes through form many remarks is that, according to the ancient maxim “sentire cum ecclesia,” he always thought with the Church, and so he was always able to teach with the Church.

West Regional Bishop Walter Edyvean was scheduled to be the principal celebrant of Father Crispo’s funeral Mass at St. Margaret Church on Oct. 26. Among those joining the bishop concelebrating the Mass were Father Crispo’s classmates, three priests who have assisted him at the Burlington parish: Father John Carmichaell, recently named pastor of St. Ann parish, Marsh- fi eld; and two international priests: Father Peter Shen and Father Romain Rurangirwa. Father Gerard Brennan was the homilist for his classmate.

Following the funeral Mass Father Crispo was buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Wilmington.