Father Alfred M. Croke, a retired priest who was a former pastor of St. Aloysius parish, Livingston Manor, and St. Sylvia, Tivoli, died Feb. 2. He was 86.
Cardinal Dolan offered the Funeral Mass Feb. 5 at St. Matthew Church, Hastings-on-Hudson, where Father Croke had been baptized in infancy. Concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh; retired Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brucato; and Father Brian McSweeney, a cousin who was also the homilist.
Father Croke was pastor of St. Aloysius parish, 1996-2002, and of St. Sylvia’s, 1990-1995, and an administrator there in 1989. He was an advocate and procurator in the Archdiocesan Tribunal, beginning in 1967, and a parochial vicar of St. Bernard’s parish, Manhattan, 1963-1968.
He served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army, 1968-1989, during which he was a writer for the Pacific Edition of Stars and Stripes and stationed in the United States and the Far East. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the Bronze Star and the Soldier’s Medal for his service in Vietnam.
His devotion to the Blessed Mother was apparent even in his youth. Baptized Alfred Emanuel Croke—after the 42nd governor of New York, Alfred E. Smith—at confirmation young Alfred took the name Mary. He also belonged to the Mariological Society of America. While stationed at St. Aloysius parish, Father Croke advocated, unsuccessfully, that the name of one of the mission churches, Gate of Heaven, be changed to Our Lady Gate of Heaven to honor one of Mary’s titles. “His devotion to our Blessed Mother was just so important to him that he wanted to give her credit wherever he could,” Father McSweeney recalled.
Ordained in 1963 after studying for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, Father Croke emulated the nickname of his namesake, Gov. Al Smith, who was affectionately known as the “Happy Warrior,” his priest cousin added. “He was always very happy and he spent most of his time as a chaplain in the military.”
His upbeat demeanor was underscored when he was assigned to St. Sylvia’s in Tivoli, which as Father McSweeney said, “is as far north as you can get in the diocese on the East Side of the Hudson River.”
“He used to say, ‘Tivoli when you spell it backwards is “I love it.”’ He didn’t mind being so far away, because wherever the people of God were, he was happy.”
He was also his family’s genealogist, said Father McSweeney, who was a first cousin once removed to Father Croke. Father McSweeney’s father and Father Croke were first cousins. “I knew him my whole life. I think the seed of my vocation was planted at his ordination.”
When Father Croke learned that his cousin Brian was entering the seminary, he gave him his 1941 copy of “The Imitation of Christ,” which Father McSweeney still has. The cousins were ordained 25 years apart.
Father Croke retired to the John Cardinal O’Connor Residence in the Bronx in 2002.
Born in Hastings-on-Hudson, he attended St. Matthew’s School there and Cardinal Hayes High School, the Bronx. He earned law degrees from Brooklyn Law School; a master’s in international relations; a master’s from Fordham University and a bachelor’s from Washington Square College in Manhattan. He had also studied philosophy at St. John’s University in Queens. He was admitted to the bar in 1954.
He is survived by his sister, Rosemary Rosenkampff. Burial was at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Yonkers.