Fr. Thomas Quinlan, a priest for 54 years, dies
Father Thomas J. Quinlan, a retired priest of the Diocese of Richmond who had been ordained a priest for 54 years, died April 24 at a rehabilitation facility in Virginia Beach. He had turned 83 a day earlier.
Guests visited him on his birthday and were there when he blew out four candles on his cake. Among those present were Msgr. William L. Pitt and Father John Dorgan, both retired priests.
Father Quinlan had never fully recovered from a fall Nov. 2 in which he hit his head, Father Dorgan told The Catholic Virginian.
“He was never strong enough to walk again,” he said, adding that Father Quinlan had received physical therapy in rehabilitation facilities.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at Holy Family Church in Virginia Beach, the last parish in which Father Quinlan was pastor when he retired in 2005. Father Dorgan, a long time friend, will preside at the Mass. Bishop Emeritus Walter F. Sullivan is expected to preach.
The urn containing the cremains will be placed in the columbarium of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, another parish where Father Quinlan earlier served as pastor.
Born April 23, 1929, in Springfield, Massachusetts, he was the oldest of 10 children. He grew up in nearby Chicopee and was educated at Kirby Junior High and Chicopee High School.
Father Quinlan was in formation for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY, and graduated in 1958. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on May 1, 1958 by Bishop John J. Russell.
His post-graduate work was completed in 1981 when he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree.
A priest of the Diocese of Richmond for 54 years, Father Quinlan served in several parishes, some of which are now part of the Diocese of Arlington which was established in 1974.
They include Blessed Sacrament, Alexandria (1958-1963); Sacred Heart, Norfolk (1963-1968); Sacred Heart, Covington (1968); Saint Vincent de Paul, Newport News (1968-1971); Good Shepherd, Alexandria (1971-1974); Basilica of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Norfolk (1974-1985); Church of the Resurrection, Portsmouth (1985-1986); Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Tabb (1986-2000), and Church of the Holy Family, Virginia Beach (2000-2005). Father Quinlan retired in 2005.
In August 1974, after he had been a priest 16 years, Father Quinlan was serving as pastor of Good Shepherd in Mount Vernon when the new Arlington diocese was officially established with Bishop Thomas J. Welsh as its first bishop.
He requested to return to the Diocese of Richmond then headed by his long-time friend, Bishop Walter F. Sullivan. Bishop Welch immediately granted his request.
In an interview with The Catholic Virginian after his 50th anniversary of ordination, Father Quinlan explained his reasoning for wanting to return to Richmond.
“The clergy of Northern Virginia and I had totally different theologies,” he said. “I would tease them and they would tease me.”
In that same issue of The Catholic Virginian of May 19, 2008, Father Quinlan said he became a priest “to serve other people and work with different classes of society, especially the poor.”
When he became pastor of newly established Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Tabb, Father Quinlan had to overcome strong opposition to open a parish thrift shop.
“Nobody wanted me to open it,” he said. “They said there were no poor people in Poquoson and I laughed at them.”
He celebrated his Golden Jubilee Mass on May 11, 2008 in a tent on the grounds of the Church of the Ascension in Virginia Beach. He was then living in a house on the church grounds. He chose the venue of the tent because he felt the number of guests he invited for the liturgy would be more than the church could handle.
Father Quinlan is survived by his four brothers and one sister, all living in Massachusetts.
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