Milford's St. Mary's long-time pastor remembered

St. Mary's Church of Milford retired Pastor The Rev. James J. Cronin, 75, died Saturday. He had recently retired after serving 18 years as pastor at St. Mary's. There will be a parish mass 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary's, and a Mass of Christian Burial 11 a.m. Wednesday also at St. Mary;s.

Rev. Cronin was well loved by the Milford community, and Milford attorney Christopher B.  Carveth recently shared his thoughts on the pastor's legacy. Carveth is a former St. Mary's school board chairman.

I first met Father Cronin when I enrolled my daughters at St. Mary School. I became active in the School Board and eventually was elected Chairman, a first I believe as a non-Catholic (Methodist).

In consultation with Fr. Cronin, the Principal and fellow Board members we instituted a 10 year plan to improve the educational reputation of the school, modernize the physical plant, and broaden the extra-curricular activities available to the older students (grades 7-8) to  make parochial education a viable alternative to the expanding public middle school concept and the resources offered to public school students.

One point in particular was the idea of an out-of-state class trip for the 8th Grade, similar to the Washington DC trip offered at Harborside etc., which at the time was not permitted in the Hartford Archdiocese.

Father Cronin lent a sympathetic ear to my observations that "parochial" should not equate to "limited." With his approval and support I secured permission to bring the class of 1996 to Boston, admittedly only for the day, but still a departure for the Archdiocese. As it turned out Fr. Cronin's brother, a Boston FBI Agent, was able to join us for lunch so it was a chance to get to know the man, as well as the priest, which was not always easy to do given our different religious affiliations.

Over the course of years we worked together, and in other community contacts, I always came away with the impression that he was a committed Christian, strong in his faith but able to appreciate differing opinions and doctrines. While I did not know him as a younger man I am told he was quite the athlete and I do know that he had a zest for life beyond the Church. My daughters graduated respectively in 1996 and 1998 and share in my affection for him.

In conjunction with the parish support of the School, he made me feel welcome in the pulpit as I exhorted the congregation at St. Mary's to dig a little deeper each year to make the school the best it could be. This was not an easy task for me, being not only outside the parish but also the faith, and I imagine he might have had a little explaining to do as well. 

He was quick with a story, heavy on the accent, and generous with his time. I will miss him.

Christopher B. Carveth

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