The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Father John Joseph Dorgan, Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Basilica of St. Mary, Norfolk. Father Dorgan, 78, died Wednesday, Oct. 24.

Born in Rhode Island and raised in Arlington, he was a member of St. James Parish, Falls Church. After completing two years of studies at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, he continued his theological studies at the North American College in Rome. This occurred during the Second Vatican Council, 1962-1965. On Dec. 18, 1965, Father Dorgan was ordained at St. Peter’s Basilica — the first priest of the Diocese of Richmond to be ordained in Rome. 

Upon his return to the diocese, Father Dorgan resided at Holy Trinity, Norfolk, while teaching at Norfolk Catholic High School. He served as principal of the school from 1972 to 1975.

In the Tidewater area, he served at Blessed Sacrament, St. Vincent de Paul, Sacred Heart and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. At St. Vincent de Paul, following the lead of the housekeeper who prepared sandwiches for hungry people who came to the back door, he supported what still exists as the parish’s Back Door Ministry. He built a shelter for clients and encouraged parishioners to serve them. 

In a 2015 interview with The Catholic Virginian, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of ordination, Father Dorgan spoke about his motivation for becoming a priest.

“I think the influence was priests who had been part of my life,” he said. “At every stage there was a priest encouraging me. I had a good experience of Church as a server or various things my pastor wanted me to do.”

Father Dorgan enjoyed the people he served.

“I was very lucky in all my pastoral assignments,” he told The Catholic Virginian. “The people were always so supportive of me in my pastoral work.”

Father Dorgan is survived by his brother Vincent Joseph Dorgan of Hagerstown, Md., and his sister, Sister Virginia Dorgan, a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, New York.

Editor’s note: Memorial donations in Father Dorgan’s name may be made to the Catholic Worker, 1321 W. 38th St., Norfolk, 23508.