Father Thomas McElroy, SS.CC.

FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — Father Thomas McElroy, SS.CC., an ordained member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary — United States Province, passed away on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, at his home at Damien Residence in Fairhaven.

Father McElroy, who had valiantly battled cancer for the past four years, was born to Thomas and Margaret (O’Loughlin) McElroy, on Feb. 12, 1940, in Providence, R.I. In addition to his Sacred Hearts family, he is survived by his sister, Maureen Habershaw and her husband Joe; and his twin brother Robert McElroy and his wife Ellen; as well as many nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

He was pre-deceased by his two brothers, William McElroy and Paul McElroy.

Father McElroy, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of ordination, has been a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts for more than 57 years, having entered the novitiate in Fairhaven in 1960 at the age of 20. He professed his first vows on Sept. 14, 1960, in Fairhaven, and was ordained to the priesthood, on June 7, 1967, at Queen of Peace Seminary, in Jaffrey, N.H.

During his more than 50 years as a priest, Father McElroy served his community in a wide range of ministries. After beginning his career in an inner-city parish, in Rochester, N.Y., in 1967, he was assigned to Queen of Peace Church, in Harlingen, Texas in 1970. A mission parish founded by his community in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, he served the people along the Mexican-American border there for five years.

From 1975 to 1983, Father McElroy was assigned to the Formation Team at the Sacred Hearts House of Theology, in Washington, D.C. During his ministry there, he did extensive work with military families in the DC-Virginia area where he formed life-long friendships, continuing to give a retreat to a group there every year for more than 35 consecutive years.

In 1983, he became pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in New Bedford. He later served as pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, and then St. Joseph Parish in Fairhaven. A respected retreat master, in 1987 he was twice appointed director of the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham. During the 10 years he spent there, he also continued to travel in his preaching ministry spreading the “Word of God” locally, nationally and internationally.

In 1991, seeing a great need in Wareham and the surrounding communities, he and Father Gabriel Healy, SS.CC., founded the Family Pantry-Damien’s Place as an outreach of the Retreat Center. Today, more than 25 years later, Damien’s Pantry feeds more than 2,500 people each month. Father McElroy remained active in the pantry until only several weeks ago when he passed the responsibility on to one of his SSCC brothers.

When illness finally forced him to step down as pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in 2014, that did not stop him from continuing to find a way to stay involved with the poor and marginalized — part of his congregation’s mission in which he so strongly believed. He began a Prison Ministry at the Dartmouth House of Corrections, going there every week to celebrate Mass and “walk a Spiritual journey” with the men and women incarcerated there.

The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts and Father McElroy’s family wishes to extend sincere thanks to the staff at Damien Residence and the Fairhaven Community Nurse and Hospice for the love and care given to him and to the personnel at Fairhaven Funeral Home (www.hathawayfunerals.com) for their kindness in assisting with final arrangements.

A Funeral Mass was celebrated for Father McElroy at St. Joseph’s Church, 74 Spring Street in Fairhaven, on Oct. 14, 2017, at 11 a.m., followed by burial in the Sacred Hearts Community Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to the Sacred Hearts Community at Damien Residence, 77 Adams Street, P.O. Box 111, Fairhaven, Mass. 02719.

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