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Obituary: Swampscott pastor dies suddenly

By Father Robert M. O’Grady
Posted: 4/18/2008

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Father Clyde H. Chetwynde Pilot file photo


The much loved pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Swampscott, Father Clyde H. Chetwynde, was found dead in his rectory early in the evening of April 12. Father Dennis Burns, the 87-year-old senior priest in residence at the Swampscott rectory, made the stunning discovery on his return from dinner with friends.

Father Chetwynde was born in Weymouth on Feb. 9, 1949 one of the four children of the late Clyde and Ruth (Josselyn) Chetwynde. He attended local public schools and Greenfield College before entering the archdiocesan seminary at Brighton. Raised a non-Catholic, he entered full communion with the Catholic Church, a matter of which he was particularly proud and about which he would freely and in his own style freely comment.

Cardinal Humberto Medeiros ordained Father Chetwynde to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on June 14, 1980 and he was named assistant at St. Mary Parish in Franklin. He was named parochial vicar at St. Joseph, Medway in 1984 and at St. Rose of Lima, Chelsea in December 1987. In all three assignments he took interest not only in his parish responsibilities but extended himself to wider civic responsibility and involvement especially with young people who had personal and legal problems.

Father Chetwynde went on lend lease to the Archdiocese of Louisville where he served as chaplain at Bellarmine University for two years and then returned to Chelsea briefly serving again at St. Rose as parochial vicar from 1991 to 1992.

Returning to what was then his “favorite part of the archdiocese” he was named parochial vicar at St. Mary, Wrentham in 1992 and then returned to another familiar spot as parochial vicar at St. Joseph, Medway in 1994.

Cardinal Bernard Law named him pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Townsend on Sept. 22, 1997, where he served diligently until Archbishop Seán O’Malley named him pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Swampscott on Feb. 21, 2005.

Seminary contemporaries recall that Clyde was “unfailingly kind,” “self-effacing” and especially possessed of “the driest wit.” Parishioners of St. John’s who are especially feeling his death agreed and added that he really was “a very holy man, as well.”

North Regional Bishop Francis X. Irwin was scheduled to be the principal celebrant of Father Chetwynde’s funeral Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church on April 17.

The homilist for the Mass is Father Dennis Burns who will be joined by concelebrating priests classmates, contemporaries and friends of Father Chetwynde including: archdiocesan vicar general, Father Richard Erikson; Msgr. Paul Garrity, St. Mary, Lynn; Msgr. Timothy Moran, St. Joseph, Medway and Father Terrence Curley, St. Thomas Aquinas, Nahant.

Following his funeral Mass Father Chetwynde will be buried in Fox Hill Cemetery, Billerica. His survivors include his sisters: Lynn Mulrooney, Chelmsford and Ellen Tousey, Fla., and a brother Daniel also of Fla.