Distinguished veterans and residents of the Chelsea Soldier’s Home, family, friends, and state officials came to St. Michael’s Chapel Sunday to honor the Rev. Patrick Francis Healy, the Home’s beloved chaplain, on the occasion of his 100th birthday.
The Rev. Healy is a highly decorated veteran himself, having served in the United States Armed Forces for 23 years, with stops in Japan, Germany, South Korea, and two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was the recipient of three Bronze Stars and the ‘V’ Device for heroism and valor.
Sunday morning the Rev. Healy officiated the chapel Mass in honor of Memorial Day before well-known attorney and former state representative Gene O’Flaherty presided over the impressive program honoring Healy, who was ordained on June 2, 1947, one day after his 26th birthday on June 1, 1947.
“We’re here to celebrate Father Healy’s 100th birthday,” said O’Flaherty in a welcoming remark that drew a prolonged ovation for the eminent clergyman. “To Father Healy’s extended family who are with us today, thank you very much for giving him to us.”
O’Flaherty presented city and state citations to the Rev. Healey honoring his lifelong achievements and his continuing service as chaplain at the Soldier’s Home “to the eternal gratitude of veterans, residents, and neighbors alike.”
O’Flaherty, who was corporate counsel to former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, delivered a special congratulatory message from President Joseph Biden through U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh, wishing Healy a happy 100th birthday. Flaherty also read a congratulatory letter from the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins. The Rev. Patrick F. Healy was the ninth of ten children of Patrick and Catherine Healy, immigrants to Boston from Kerry and Limerick, Ireland.
Addressing the gathering, Flaherty said, “I know that each and every one of you has a very special relationship with this man. You’ve gone to him in times of trouble, you’ve gone to him in times of joy. But everyone has a special relationship with this man, which is why we’re going to make sure today that we took the time to say, ‘thank you, Father, for all you do for us each and every day, for the example you set to us as Catholics, and how to live each and every day.”
Family, Friends Laud Healy
Jim McLaughlin, nephew of the Rev. Healy, was one of several family members who traveled from throughout New England to honor the eminent clergyman the family calls, “Padre.”
“He’s a great spiritual leader and a pastoral legend,” said McLaughlin. “We’ve been blessed to have him as an example in our family. He’s stood as a wonderful symbol in faith. As an uncle, he’s married us, baptized us, and buried us.”
Bob McLaughlin, also a nephew, said that his uncle was present when he was inducted into the United States Navy during a ceremony in South Weymouth.
“My father was a pilot and a commander in the Navy Reserve, so he swore me in and Father Healey was present and I was so honored to have him there,” said McLaughlin.
Frank Kowalski, who assisted with Communion at the service, said, “Since he came to us several years ago, he’s just been a godsend to everybody here at the Chapel. He takes care of all the veterans and all the members that now call St. Michael’s their church. We’re very happy to have him. Only God knows how long he’s going to keep him here for us, but we hope it’s still a long, long time.”
The Rev. Healey Recalls his Early Years
Patrick Francis Healy grew up on Prescott Street in Charlestown and graduated from Boston English High School in 1939.
As a youth, he attended St. Mary’s Church in Charlestown. He was a member of the CYO and played football, hockey, basketball, and baseball. He earned a tryout with the Boston Red Sox.
“We had the Bunker Hill Boys Club at one place and at the other end of the town was the YMCA with a gymnasium,” said Healy. “We had a group called the Chestnut Eagles and five of us went into the priesthood.”
On celebrating his 100th
One could feel the outpouring of love and respect in St. Michael’s Chapel for the Rev. Healy throughout the birthday celebration Sunday.
“It’s been here all the time, from the beginning and it’s mutual,” said Healy.
To what does he attribute his longevity and incredible energy?
“Just following the will of God – it’s up to Him,” he said.