Connolly, Father Edward

1961, July 22

Date of Birth: 1904, October 2

February 5, 1962

My dear Confreres:

During our last Sulpician retreat we learned of the death of Father Edward Arthur Connolly whom God called to Himself on July 22, 1961, at the age of fifty-six.

Our prayer is joined to that of our American confreres.

In reading the notice which they have graciously sent us you will better understand what a loss they have suffered in the person of this very faithful priest.

The news of Father Edward Connolly’s death evoked deep pain when it came to St. Patrick’s Seminary. No doubt, if the precarious health of our confrere kept him for several years from regular work, it did not prevent all activity. The doctor’s last diagnosis had even been optimistic and pointed to a clear improvement when compared to that of the preceding months. But we all know that the best doctors are sometimes wrong.

Beneath the happy, lively, and youthful attitudes of the lamented Father, beneath his expressive mimicry, his spontaneous and often ironic repartee, his humorous interpretation of events, his gesture of friendly encouragement and his wide smile, we can grasp a personality characterized by a strong faith which informed all the actions of his life. To him might be applied, in all truth, the saying of St. Paul, “Mihi vivere Christus est” [to me to live is Christ], for he loved Christ with an ardent love, and his whole mode of living was a witness to that fact.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island, on October 2, 1904, Father Connolly received his early education at St. Mary’s School. Then he attended the college of his native city where he received his degree in Philosophy. After that, responding to the call of God, he entered the major seminary, first at Montreal, then at Baltimore. In 1931, having finished Theology, he received priestly ordination in Providence at the hands of Bishop Hickey. Bishop McNamara had previously conferred sub-diaconate and diaconate on him.

Thinking he might serve God better than otherwise in dedicating himself to the training of the clergy, he sought admission to St. Sulpice. To ready himself for his work at the time he obtained permission to go to Rome. He returned from there in 1936 with the degree of Doctor in Canon Law.

Appointed to St. Patrick’s Seminary at Menlo Park, he was to fill there for a quarter century a fruitful apostolate wherein he made good use of his many qualities along with an unwavering devotion to souls.

You are familiar with the Rule of the seminary. It strongly recommends that the teachers share the same life as the students. It is an austere rule, which makes its weight felt when age and infirmity come, especially then, Father Connolly, despite failing health, made the effort to comply with community obligations: morning rising, meditation in common, particular examen, rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual readings, and other small points which hold nature on a tight leash. It amounts to a religious life minus the vows.

The lamented Father never failed to tie himself down, even though that sometimes entailed sacrifice. An example for everyone, he never wanted to go out without serious, if not imperative, reasons. But what he thus lost of the worldly living and experience into which Our Lord sent his disciples with the spreading of the Gospel in mind, he more than equaled in piety and the interior life. It is reported, too, that after certain class days more trying than usual he would, in order to relax his mind and that of his students, indulge in lively accounts of memories from the past, stories which brought joy to all his hearers.

In class his great preoccupation was to pour into the seminarians faithfulness to the Church and its laws. His knowledge of Canon Law, moreover, made him all the surer of this path along which he felt himself naturally drawn. That knowledge was so deep that it came to the attention of the authorities of the San Francisco archdiocese who put him in charge of setting up a part of the program for the annual conferences. Numerous priests – mostly former students or penitents – also came to consult him in cases of conscience or difficult legal problems which he, in his wisdom, knew how to clear up.

Appointed librarian, he did not hesitate, in spite of the heavy work already his, to pass the librarians’ examination, which introduced him to the choice and arrangement of books. Detailed and methodical, this new task appealed to him. He did it to everyone’s satisfaction with the generous help of students who wanted to lighten the burden which they felt was weighty for his weak shoulders.

So much worth had to be recognized. Father Connolly was chosen to take the place of the superior of the house when circumstances demanded that the latter be absent. His delicacy towards his confreres, which caused them to appreciate him highly, made his role easier than it might otherwise have been. He was an affable man who spread peace around himself, an agreeable and necessary thing in our institutions too often turned in on themselves and in which sensitivity turns quickly into hurt feelings.

During vacations, Father Connolly most often stayed at Newport, where he could again be with his ailing mother, his sister, and his brothers. He gave them the best of his time and of his heart.

Such was the life of this Sulpician, filled with devotion to his confreres, his students, and his family.

We said above that his inner faith and his love of Jesus the Priest were the motivations of that life.

May Father Connolly, by his prayer and efficacious protection, lead us to share in all the virtues which he so well practiced on earth.

My dear Confreres:

I am asking God to grant to our American province many vocations to give relief to those who have used up their strength and given all their hearts to the service of priests.

I beg you to accept my sentiments of affectionate devotion on Our Lord and Our Lady.

Pierre Girard

Superior General of the Society of St. Sulpice