Connor, Father Raymond Joseph

1984, April 16

Date of Birth: 1915, June 30

May 9, 1984

Dear Confrere:

The significance for each of us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ touched us in a very personal way when our beloved brother, Raymond Joseph Connor, died suddenly at Stella Maris Hospice, Towson, Maryland, on April 16, Monday evening of Holy Week. Two nights later the funeral Mass was celebrated in the chapel of St. Martin’s Home in Catonsville. His Theological College classmate, the Most Reverend James A. Hickey, Archbishop of Washington, presided and spoke at the end of the Mass. The Very Reverend Edward J. Frazer, S.S., provincial superior, was principal celebrant, and another seminary classmate, the Reverend William J. Lee, S.S., was homilist. Burial in the Sulpician cemetery took place on Holy Thursday morning. Father Connor is survived by his brothers Paul, Edward, and Francis, and his sisters Annamae Crevier and Mary Rose Connor.

Raymond Connor was the fourth of six children of Charles T. and Mary Louis (nee Sharon) Connor. Born in Thompsonville, Connecticut, on June 30, 1915, he moved with his family to Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, as a young boy. He received his early education in St. Patrick’s Grammar School and graduated from Cathedral High School in nearby Springfield. Because of the terrible economic depression of that period, Raymond had to stop his schooling and contribute his support to the family with various jobs. He became an active member of the Knights of Columbus, an affiliation he retained the rest of his life, and also played some semi-professional football.

Eventually Raymond felt free to pursue his desire for the priesthood and entered St. Charles College in Catonsville in 1938. There he excelled as a student and was accepted as a candidate for the Society of St. Sulpice, under whose auspices he was accepted as a Basselin scholar at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., where he received an M.A. in philosophy, and then continued his seminary studies at Theological College.

On June 11, 1946, in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Father Connor was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts. He taught for one year at St. Charles College and then took his Sulpician formation year at St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in Baltimore and became a member of the Sulpicians in 1948. Later that same year he began teaching at St. Joseph’s College, Mountain View, California, where he remained until 1962. He taught English, Latin, and history, and also served as a spiritual director and master of ceremonies in the chapel. During that time his great interest in voice production as a necessary foundation for effective speaking and preaching was nourished in various study program, especially under a mast in Los Angeles with whom he used to work as often as three times a year.

In 1962, Father Connor accepted a long-desired opportunity to teach the principles of speaking at the theology level and moved to St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan. There he also taught church history and biblical Greek. What had seemed so promising to him, however, became less so in the unrest and desire for change which swept over the church and seminaries in the years following the Second Vatican Council. Finally, in 1969, he took up residence again in Baltimore at St. Mary’s on Paca Street and ended his formal teaching career.

Very shortly, however, Father Connor began to substitute for another Sulpician, whose ill-health was making it difficult to fulfill an assignment as a chaplain at the Veterans Administration Hospital. Early in 1970, he enthusiastically accepted the appointment as chaplain and spent ten fruitful years in that ministry, where his effectiveness was recognized in an award in 1974 by the hospital administration, commending his diplomatic, courteous, and dedicated service, reflecting great credit upon himself, the chaplain service, and the Veterans Administration.

Blessed with a warm pastoral sensitivity even as a seminarian, Raymond had learned sign language in order to communicate with the deaf students of Gallaudet College. Throughout his life he reached a host of people, often through correspondence, nourishing and supporting them in their needs and suffering, urging them to imitate his own deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and St. John Neumann. Patients at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center were also the frequent recipients of his pastoral care in those later years.

With his health beginning to deteriorate, particularly from a heart condition which required surgery, Father Connor reluctantly resigned his hospital chaplaincy in July 1980. His last years were spent quietly at St. Mary’s Residence and frequently alone, although he could still call on his great sense of humor in conversation and he moved easily into spiritual reflections with any listener. Nor did his letter writing apostolate diminish. Stomach ailments early this year were soon traced to cancer of the esophagus. Experimental laser treatments during several hospital stays provided little relief. As he grew rapidly weaker, he agreed to be moved to the center for the terminally ill at the Stella Maris Hospice. It was not the cancer but another massive heart attack which ended his life three days later.

May Father Raymond Connor, whose loving care for seminarians and for the sick drew so much vigor from his love of God and the saints, live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

William J. Lee, S.S.

Provincial Secretary