They came together as one congregation and one community for a Mass of Christian Burial Monday to say farewell to the Rev. Patrick Francis Healy, the long-time chaplain of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
The Rev. Michael O’Hara led the funeral Mass at St. Michael’s Chapel for the Rev. Healy, who passed away on January 12, 2022, at the age of 100. Family and friends and state and local officials attended the observance which truly was a celebration of the universally beloved clergyman’s incredible life story that began in Charlestown and spanned the entire globe through his highly decorated service (various campaign medals and three Bronze Stars) in the United States Army as a chaplain.
Eugene O’Flaherty, a former state representative and chief counsel to former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, rose to the occasion with a beautiful, touching eulogy for the Rev. Patrick Healy. O’Flaherty has been a calming influence during what has been an emotional time for the congregation as it mourns the loss of its spiritual leader.
“Today I am filled with grief at his loss but also, like all of you, I know we will see him again and that fills me with happiness. Father taught us that,” said O’Flaherty at the outset of his message.
O’Flaherty told the congregation of the Rev. Healy’s humble beginnings at Saint Mary’s grade school in Charlestown, “where Father’s affinity for the faith was nurtured.” He illuminated on the Rev. Healy’s excellence as a young athlete, “earning a tryout with the Boston Red Sox in 1939.”
O’Flaherty also highlighted Father Healy’s writings of “Finger of God” books, quoting him in an interview before his 100th birthday, “If you let the finger of God guide you in life, you’re going to be very happy.”
O’Flaherty credited Father Healy’s service to his country and how his noble contribution to his fellow American veterans continued during the last two years of the pandemic that struck the Soldiers’ Home community hard.
“His last mission in life was here at the Home, during the pandemic,” said O’Flaherty. “He cared for the troops just like he learned to do in Vietnam and other places around the world. Amidst that danger of war, Father Healy had said, ‘I was in the hands of the Lord’, and so he was here with us in this community for the last two years during the pandemic.”
The sentimental remembrance was told of how Father Healy’s previous experience at Saint Timothy’s Church in Miami – where he supervised the construction of the church building – set the foundation for him to oversee the window repairs, new stairway, and other refurbishments at St. Michael’s Chapel on the campus of the Soldiers’ Home. “Father had been there [in Miami] and done that,” said O’Flaherty.
Also drawing a positive, joyful reaction was O’Flaherty’s relating of the tale of the congregation’s gentle coaxing of Father Healy out of his retirement – during a dinner at the Kernwood in which O’Flahery and others requested of him to serve as the chaplain at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
“He brought to us his teachings and his deeds, all these accumulated years of knowledge, of wisdom, of discipline in the works of Christ, and we learned from this great priest what our path to salvation required,” said O’Flaherty. “Father always reminded us that we know not the time nor the hour that God will summon us, and we need to be ready.”
On behalf of the congregation and the heroic veterans that reside at the Soldiers’ Home, O’Flaherty expressed gratitude to Father Healy’s family, “Please know how much we loved him and how he was cared for,” said O’Flaherty. “You were all amazing in your devotion to Father.”
There were two awe-inspiring moments left in what was a brilliantly executed service for the Rev. Patrick Healy. As the large crowd filed out of the church, vocalist Robert Brooks continued his masterful singing to the end, a performance so striking that it caused the remaining congregants to warmly applaud Mr. Brooks.
And as the Rev. Healy made his final journey across the Soldiers’ Home campus, in front of the St. Michael’s Chapel stood loved ones, family and friends, proudly holding American flags, honoring this favorite son of Charlestown, a great American, chaplain, and spiritual leader who brought so much inspiration and so many words of wisdom to all who knew him during his 100 years of living.