NEW BEDFORD — Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Harrington. Ordained May 30, 1964. Entered into Eternal Rest on June 30, 2017.
A proud son of New Bedford and of St. Lawrence Parish in the Whaling City, Msgr. Harrington graduated from Holy Family High School in that city. He received a Bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Holy Cross College in Worcester and prepared for the priesthood at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Ordained on May 30, 1964 by the late Bishop James L. Connolly, Msgr. Harrington returned to the Catholic University for graduate studies in 1967-69, receiving a License in Canon Law.
He served as parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Hyannis and Immaculate Conception Parish in Fall River prior to being named Vice-Chancellor and Secretary to Bishop Connolly. In 1972, Bishop Daniel A. Cronin appointed him as Chancellor of the Diocese while he also served as resident Chaplain at the former Rose Hawthorne Home in Fall River. In 1974, Pope Paul VI designated him a papal chamberlain with the rank of monsignor. Msgr. Harrington was appointed Rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1978. He was appointed Vicar for Finance and Administration in 1983 while continuing as Rector of the Cathedral.
In 1986, Msgr. Harrington returned to the Catholic University in Washington for a year of sabbatical studies and returned to the Diocese to become the Pastor of St. Joseph Church in Taunton for eight years. He was appointed Pastor of Holy Name Parish in New Bedford in 1995 and in that capacity oversaw the merger of Holy Name Parish with Sacred Heart Parish, forming the new Parish of the Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope John Paul II named him a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness in 1999. Through the years, Msgr. Harrington held a number of other Diocesan responsibilities. He was Secretary for Spiritual Development and Apostalates, Director of the annual Catholic Charities Appeal and Dean of the Taunton Deanery. For reasons of health, he retired in 2004 and in retirement has promoted awareness of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Msgr. Harrington has served as Chaplain to the Fire Departments in Hyannis, Taunton, New Bedford and in retirement continued to minister as Fire Chaplain to the members of the Fall River Fire Department. He is a founding member of the Corps of Fire Chaplains in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was honored by his peers in 2008 with the Mychal Judge Award. A grateful friend of “Bill W,” he often facilitated days of recollection rooted in the “12 Steps.”
Msgr. Harrington was an avid fan of local professional sports teams and an enthusiastic golfer. In retirement, he learned to play the saxophone, reflecting his love of music and as therapy for pulmonary illness. Msgr. Harrington published A Call To Serve, a memoir of his experiences as a fire chaplain as well as meditations on the “12 Steps” spirituality. He has published several canonical articles in The Jurist, The Catholic Lawyer and Studia Canonica.
Msgr. Harrington spent many happy years in retirement at the Cardinal Medeiros Residence attached to Bishop Connolly High School. He assisted at local parishes and at the Diocesan Tribunal on an occasional basis.
He was the youngest child of the late Atty. Edward J. Harrington and Esther F. (Yates) Harrington, brother of the late Atty. Edward J. Harrington and Ann E. Callanan.
He is survived by sisters Mary T. Cain of Framingham and Esther F. Gillis of Katy, Texas and many beloved nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
Msgr. Harrington will be transferred to St. Mary's Cathedral, 327 Second St., Fall River on Thursday, July 6th at 2 PM, where he will lie in state until a Wake Service at 7:30 PM. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, July 7th at 11 AM, with Bishop Edgar M. daCunha as principal celebrant. Burial will follow in St. Mary's Cemetery in New Bedford. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the Fallen Firefighters Scholarship Fund, c/o Roger St. Martin 140 Commerce Dr. Fall River, MA 02722. For online guestbook, please visit www.saundersdwyer.com.