Monsignor Conroy (1899-1970)

by Charles McGrath

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Back in the mid 1970's I would usually go for a walk in the evening. I would normally walk from 18th Avenue over Stuyvesant Avenue to South Orange Avenue and then up to Sandford Avenue and over to 18th Avenue. It was a peaceful route and it gave me some special time to reflect on the days happenings or the things from the past.

One summer evening when I rounded the corner of South Orange and Sandford Avenues. My thoughts went back to the days when Monsignor Conroy was the pastor of Sacred Heart Church. He was truly one of the best gifts that Sacred Heart Church every received. He was its pastor from 1956 -1969. These were some of my reflections that night as I turned the corner facing Sacred Heart Church:

While he was a tremendous organizer he knew when and how to delegate. He realized that we needed a new school and gym/auditorium and that the Church also needed refurbishing. He hired a professional fund raising company to organize a new school building fund drive through pledges. They in turn recruited 400 of the men from the parish to canvass the parishioners. We met in the basement of the old school at 800 A.M. on a Saturday. Each man was given the names of 5 families to visit who belonged to the Parish. By noon that day (within 4 hours after we started) we finished and one million dollars were received in pledges. That equated to 8 million dollars in today's money. At that time that was a fund raising record.

Nothing had been done to the interior of the Church since it was built in 1927. He had all the pews refinished. All the light fixtures were replaced. The roof leaks that were there from the beginning were fixed. The complete interior of the Church was cleaned and painted for the first time. It was beautiful! The painting contractor as a gift to the Church had an artist paint the picture of Christ on the ceiling.

As a homilist he had few equals. The first homily given at Sacred Heart Church was given by Bishop Fulton Sheen and Monsignor was in his league. He would also field 2000 men for the Holy Name Parade from our parish. He was also an exceptional athlete. He was one of only a few men that were qualified to operate a bobsled at Lake Placid. With all his gifts and leadership skills there was talk that he would be made a bishop. Unfortunately and unfairly he got Alzheimer disease in 1969 and died within a year.

At that point in my walk I was directly across the street from the rectory. I glanced to my right at the rectory and then back to my left. My eyes were attracted to a white object in the darkness.. It was a white booklet resting on top of the hedges of the house (directly across the street from the rectory). I picked the booklet up and walked over to the nearest street light to look at it. I almost fell over. It was the Mass booklet from the Mass of Thanksgiving 40th Anniversary of Ordination for Monsignor Thomas J. Conroy who was ordained a priest in March 12, 1927. His picture was on the cover. Over five years had elapsed since his death.

Almost 28 years have passed since that night. That booklet I treasured and saved. In fact right now it is in front of my keyboard. Inside the booklet was a small card. Very similar to one received at a wake. But this one was evidently given to his family and friends when he celebrated Mass for his 40th Anniversary of Ordination.

It read:

"A remembrance of the Fortieth Anniversary of my ordination to the Holy Priesthood March 12 ,1967. Please pray for me as I shall do for you." signed Monsignor Conroy


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