Fifty years ago in its Aug. 7, 1959 edition, the Los Angeles Archdiocesan newspaper The Tidings reported that 19 new priests were to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The article featured a photo of the 19 men, each wearing crisp black shirts, black pants and peaking from in front of their Adam's apple, the familiar white clerical collar.
Among those 19 newly ordained priests was the Rev. James Foley who, fresh from All Hallows Seminary in Dublin, was being assigned to St. Genevieve Parish in Panorama City.
Now serving at Holy Redeemer in Montrose, his congregation celebrated the occasion of Foley's half-century as a priest by throwing him a party.
But it wasn't just any party. What made it so special was that Father Jack decided to celebrate with longtime friend, All Hallows Seminary classmate and fellow graduate, the Rev. Frank Cassidy, a retired priest from Immaculate Conception Parish in Monrovia.
Father Cassidy wasn't going to celebrate his 50th anniversary, he said during the homily at a special Mass commemorating the anniversaries. In fact, he was going to spend the day resting quietly at home. But upon Foley's insistence, Cassidy celebrated with him.
â€œWe were there from the very first moment we entered the seminary. We stayed friends all the way through, and he was in two different parishes with me afterward,â€ said Father Jack as he was pulled in all different directions for a handshake, a hug or to acknowledge a shout of congratulations. Father Jack was certainly the man of the hour.
â€œFifty years ago there were 42 of us in the class; we were ordained together,â€ said Father Cassidy. â€œIt was a very emotional day, but a very important day.â€
Father Cassidy and Father Jack will be traveling together to their old seminary in Dublin at the end of July for celebrations there. According to Father Cassidy, 23 priests from the Class of '59 will be attending.
Foley's parishes include St. Lauren's in Redondo Beach; St. Cyprian's in Long Beach; Immaculate Conception in Monrovia (where Father Cassidy was also a priest); and finally, in 1992, Holy Redeemer, where he became one of the most beloved priests the parish has ever seen.
Father Jack's full name, of course, is Monsignor James Foley. But â€œFather Jackâ€ is much more appropriate for the people of his parish. Most parishioners view Father Jack, who was born in Tipperary County, Ireland, as the man who brought new life into the parish through his efforts in modernizing the parish school and giving the parish's worship space a much needed facelift.
But it is his generosity and sense of community that has made Father Jack beloved with his flock.
â€œJack is a very generous man,â€ Father Cassidy said. â€œJack is very compassionate, very caring. If you were in trouble, Jack Foley is going to be at the door to help you. He said, 'You've got to celebrate this with me,' and that's his generosity.â€
Father Cassidy told the story of the time when his sister described Father Jack as having the â€œheart of a lion.â€ While Father Cassidy's sister and her husband were preparing to return to Ireland after visiting the two priests at their residence, Father Jack got up at 5 a.m. to bid them farewell.
In Ireland, it is rare for someone to be up at 5 in the morning, Father Cassidy said.
â€œHe's gregarious,â€ said Father's Jack cousin Jim Brennan. â€œHe loves being around people. He takes his strength from people and gives it back. The Tipperary Irish are that way.â€
â€œHe's the greatest priest that's ever lived,â€ said longtime friend Sarah â€œSallyâ€ Jones, who met Father Jack at St. Cyprian's Church in Long Beach.
â€œI am overjoyed that the parish pulled this off,â€ said Holy Redeemer and Saint James the Less Pastor Rev. Ed Dover. â€œThey wanted to make very much a multiple-parish and family celebration of 50 years â€” a hundred years â€” of priesthood.â€
â€œHe's a very, very sweet man,â€ said Father Jack's cousin Virginia Brennan. â€œWe are very close, and my husband was [close to Jack], too.â€
â€œJack has been a part of our family forever, he's done all of our weddings,â€ said cousin Mary Cliby. â€œHe's our resident priest. It's very nice. We are blessed to have Father Jack as part of our family.â€
â€œIt was really a wonderful celebration of two very different lives, Father Frank Cassidy and Father Foley, and how those two different approaches to the priesthood both make a contribution to the life of the parish. It's wonderful,â€ added Brennan.
As a gift to Father Jack, the congregation awarded the longtime pastor with an all-expenses-paid trip to next summer's Triple Crown.