Flynn, Father William Joseph S.S.
2014, March 6
Date of Birth: 1933, August 27
“The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong” laments the psalmist and those of us who miss Fr. Flynn’s lively spirit, camaraderie and good humor. He made it to his eightieth year strong and vibrant but was then weakened by a mysterious infection that damaged his kidneys and subsequently led to his heart failure on March 6, 2014.
Fr. Flynn was born on August 27, 1933 to William and Margaret Flynn in Scranton, PA. He is survived by his brother Martin. He was preceded in death by a twin brother, Robert, who died in infancy.
After completing his parochial education at Holy Rosary School in Scranton, PA, Fr. Flynn entered the seminary at St. Charles College, Catonsville, MD. He graduated with an B.A. in philosophy from St. Mary’s Seminary, Paca Street, Baltimore, MD in 1955 and went on to study theology at St. Mary’s Seminary, Roland Park, where he earned his S.T.B. (1957) and S.T.L. (1959). He was ordained for the Diocese of Scranton on May 23, 1959 and became a definitive member of the Society of St. Sulpice in 1962. He did further graduate studies in biology at Fordham University earning the M.S. in 1965 and then a D.Min. from The Catholic University of America in 1982.
Fr. Flynn began his Sulpician ministry on the faculty of St. Stephen’s Seminary in Hawaii (1959-1961) teaching Latin, English, civics, speech, religion and history. He then returned to Baltimore for his Solitude year (1961-1962) after which he began his long association with St. Mary’s Seminary. He taught biology, natural science and music at Paca St. (1962-1963 and 1965-1969) as well as serving as Master of Ceremonies and Treasurer. Upon the closure of Paca St., he moved to St. Mary’s Seminary College in Catonsville, MD (1969-1974) where he was the Assistant Treasurer while teaching biology and music as well as directing the choir. He served as Rector there from 1972-1974. He joined the faculty of Theological College in Washington, D.C. (1974-1979) to serve as Assistant to the Rector for Auxiliary Enterprises. He returned to Baltimore to join the faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary and University at Roland Park from 1979-1987 to teach liturgy and sacraments while also serving as Vice President for Finances and Coordinator of the Liturgy.
In 1987, Fr. Flynn began his full time pastoral ministry in his home diocese of Scranton, PA serving as chaplain of St. Joseph’s Center, Dunmore, PA, (1987-1989) until his appointment as Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Susquehanna, PA, (1989-1996) and then as Pastor of Corpus Christi Church (now St. John Vianney Parish), Montdale, PA (1996-2008) where he remained until his retirement. He then moved to Villa St. Joseph, the retirement community for the Diocese of Scranton, where he resided until his death.
While serving the Diocese of Scranton, he earned the reputation of being a “hands-on” pastor. His background in seminary formation and administration supported his work to build the parish, not only in its physical structure but also in its life as a worshipping community. For the Diocese he held positions of Dean of Abingtons (2001-2006) and he served on the Liturgical Commission, the Presbyteral Council, the Liturgy Certificate Board, and as Regional Liturgy Coordinator for Susquehanna County Deanery. While in the diocese, he remained connected to our Sulpician community through his service on the Provincial finance committee and by his regular attendance at our Retreats and Convocations.
His diocesan positions underscored Fr. Flynn’s great love for the liturgy that he nurtured and honed as a seminary professor. In the seminary, he instilled a love for liturgy in his students. As a pastor, he expressed this love in the ways he fashioned a community of prayer through good preaching, effective catechetical teaching, and in reverent liturgical celebrations wherein the community could pray and sing with joy.
Among the Sulpicians, Fr. Flynn will be remembered for his many years of service in the classroom, especially for the lively way he taught biology early in his career and then for re-tooling himself so that he could teach at the theologate by specializing in liturgy and sacraments. His love for teaching was matched by the many loves that marked his life—he loved music and going to the theater, especially the opera; he loved all things Irish, from the University of Notre Dame to his roots on the Emerald Isle, his frequent vacation destination and the home of his extended family. He loved playing cards, playing the piano and putting new words (sometimes irreverent) to old, familiar tunes. He loved to talk, to sit and chat while sipping his evening Rob Roy. But above all, he loved people, individually and as a community. As Fr. Hurst emphasized in the homily of his funeral Mass, Fr. Flynn was a catalyst of community. He loved social gatherings and every opportunity that would be an occasion to bring people together. He worked to make the faculty a team of leaders and to make the whole seminary a true Christian community.
His memory in the Sulpician family will be marked by his community spirit and his great sense of humor. For many years, Fr. Flynn was the Master of Ceremonies at our anniversary dinners at the end of our Retreats. Using his gift with words, he would regale us with his jokes and especially his imitations of some of the “giants” of the U.S. Province. He could mimic their voice as well as their mannerisms to bring their most distinctive idiosyncrasies back to life and dissolve the rest of us in laughter. Through such reminiscence on the Sulpicians who were our links in the chain of community life, Fr. Flynn inspired a love for fellowship and taught us to sit lightly on life lest we break under the weight of our Sulpician responsibilities.
On March 10, 2014, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bamberra, Bishop of Scranton, presided at the Mass of Christian Burial at St. John Vianney Parish, Montdale, where Fr. Flynn had been pastor. Provincial, Fr. Thomas Ulshafer, S.S., concelebrated the Mass, and Fr. Thomas Hurst, S.S., Rector of St. Mary’s Seminary and University, gave the homily. Fr. Ulshafer presided over Fr. Flynn’s interment the next day at the Sulpician cemetery in Catonsville, MD.
Priest, educator, choir director, liturgist, pastor—he was all of these things. To those who knew him, however, Fr. Flynn will be remembered for his good humor, hearty laughter, and generous spirit of community.
Richard M. Gula, S.S.
Director of Personnel