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.
"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