Kerin, Father Charles
1982, April 23
Date of Birth: 1905, August 30
May 10, 1982
On April 23, 1982, only a month short of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, our beloved colleague, Charles Augustine Kerin, died in the infirmary of St. Martin’s Home in Catonsville. Five years earlier he had suffered one of a series of disabling strokes that left him disoriented and seriously affected his powers of memory and recognition. A year later his limbs became paralyzed by another stroke. Having retired to St. Charles Villa in 1971, Father Kerin was then moved to the infirmary of the adjoining St. Martin’s, where the loving care of the Little Sisters of the Poor and their aides provided a setting of quiet dignity in his last years.
Those who had known Father Kerin as a young priest recall that he was always a free man, a man of the spirit of the law, reflecting something of the spirit of the independent Yankee. He possessed special qualities of style, humor, and intelligence that made him a much-appreciated colleague and a friend of many priests and students.
Born in Montpelier, Vermont, on August 30, 1905, the son of Daniel P. and Mary Rose (nee Flanagan) Kerin, Charles received his early education at St. Michael’s School and Montpelier High School. Having developed an interest in priesthood, he entered St. Charles College in Catonsville in 1924. Two years later the Diocese of Burlington assigned him to the Seminaire de Philosophie in Montreal and then to the Grand Seminaire for theology, where he spent only one year. He managed to transfer to the new St. Mary’s Seminary at Roland Park in Baltimore for his last three years of theology.
On May 21, 1932, Father Kerin was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Montreal in the Cathedral there for the Diocese of Burlington, which had released him for service in the Society of St. Sulpice in the United States. That summer he did parish work in Brooklyn, New York, and, until his final illness, almost every summer and weekend thereafter saw him accepting some parish assignment that brought him so much satisfaction. His first Sulpician assignment was at St. Charles College, where he taught languages and then became prefect of the junior division.
His main teaching field, however, was to be canon law. In 1938, Father Kerin entered The Catholic University in Washington and in three years achieved the J.C.D. degree. His doctoral thesis was on Privation of Christian Burial. He was a popular professor of canon law. However, his students say he spent more than the allotted time on cemeteries and delighted in citing Father Kerin as the authority for various propositions. While at St. Edward’s Seminary in Kenmore, Washington, from 1941 to 1950, Father Kerin also taught theology and served as treasurer, a position he strongly disliked; not surprisingly, given the poor state of finances there in those years and the difficulties created by war-time shortages.
A Sulpician with a wonderful sense of community, Father Kerin in all ways strove to make life more pleasant for his confreres, whether in trying to supply their material needs or with his witty and lively companionship. His transfer to St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan, pleased him greatly, not only because he could concentrate his teaching in canon law but also was able to surrender the treasurer’s position for successive roles as dean of studies, registrar, and vice rector. It was as vice rector and professor that he returned to St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore from 1963 to 1968, and finally, back to St. John’s as professor of canon law until he retired in 1971.
Retirement at St. Charles Villa for Father Kerin was a time of enjoyable activity. He traveled much, socialized often, and frequently traveled to Detroit to assist in a parish or substitute for a pastor on vacation. He enjoyed a reputation as a fine preacher and was especially effective in his appeals for support of the missions. The changes introduced into seminary life by Vatican II, as elsewhere in the church, he easily adapted to. Urbane, handsome, and well-dressed always, he thoroughly enjoyed good living and good dining. Until his prolonged illness, priests and seminarians found his company and humor a constant delight.
Yet growing old was especially difficult for Father Kerin. All of his close relatives preceded him in death. The last years were such a contrast to the style that had characterized his earlier years. In the spirituality of our founder, as the homilist of Father Kerin’s funeral liturgy observed, his last years would have been seen as the high point of his life. The last years of Father Olier’s life were ones of human diminishment and he welcomed it as a fuller and fuller participation in Christ’s sufferings so as to share more deeply in his resurrection. Father Olier would have rejoiced in Father Kerin to have been able to walk this path.
Father Lowell Glendon, a long-time friend and confrere, delivered the homily for the Mass of Christian Burial on the evening of April 26 in the chapel of St. Martin’s Home. Father Edward Hogan, whose vice rector Father Kerin had been at St. John’s Seminary, was principal celebrant, and the provincial superior of St. Sulpice, Father Edward Frazer, gave the absolution and presided at graveside services the next morning at the Sulpician cemetery. May Father Kerin and all our brother Sulpicians who have died live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
William J. Lee, S.S.