Editor's Report

A Priest’s Chalice


We’ve done a lot of reporting in this issue, and the last one, about the 10th anniversary of 9/11. On the anniversary itself, I covered a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dolan at St. Peter’s Church, which stands on the corner of Barclay Street, a couple of blocks up Church Street from the World Trade Center site. Cardinal Egan gave a stirring homily about the heroism that he personally witnessed at Ground Zero and St. Vincent’s Hospital after the attacks. You can read that story and related ones beginning in the centerfold.

Many times when we go out to cover a story, another idea will present itself. That was the case that day at St. Peter’s. In his acknowledgements of the priests who were serving as concelebrants, Archbishop Dolan noted that one of them, Father Thomas Looney, C.S.C., vice provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, had a special reason for being there.

Father Looney had brought along the chalice and paten of Father Francis Grogan, C.S.C., who had been a passenger on United Airlines Flight 175, which was crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Archbishop Dolan used the sacred instruments in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Father Grogan’s name did not ring a bell with me, which was a surprise. As a Catholic journalist, I pay very close attention to Church connections to major news events.

Of course, every New Yorker knows that Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., the well-known and beloved Franciscan friar, died in responding to the attacks at Ground Zero. His priestly life and service as a fire chaplain deservedly received much attention in the aftermath of 9/11 and even to today.

Photo by Chris Sheridan
EUCHARIST—Archbishop Dolan prays during Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Sept. 11. Before him is the chalice of Father Francis Grogan, C.S.C., who was killed aboard Flight 175 on 9/11. The archbishop is joined by Father James Hayes, S.S.S., pastor of St. Andrew’s, Manhattan; Father Thomas Looney, C.S.C., vice provincial of the Congregation of the Holy Cross; and Father Kevin Madigan, pastor of St. Peter’s. Father James Cruz, the archbishop’s priest secretary, was master of ceremonies.

But that day, Father Grogan’s story literally found me. Some details of his life emerged in an interview with Father Looney immediately after Mass ended. Father Grogan was ordained to the priesthood for the Holy Cross Fathers in 1955. As a young priest, he served as registrar of Holy Cross-run Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., where he was popular enough with students to have the school yearbook dedicated in his honor, a pretty unusual tribute for an administrator, Father Looney noted.

A Catholic News Service story from 2001 also noted that Father Grogan had served as a parish priest and as a chaplain and teacher at Holy Cross institutions in several states including New York. He was also superior of the Holy Cross residence in North Dartmouth, Mass.

At the time of his death, Father Grogan, 76, was scheduled to begin an assignment as chaplain of a retirement home for Holy Cross brothers in Valatie, N.Y. Father Grogan had been en route to visit his sister, Ann Browne, of Ramona, Calif.

Father Looney also said that Father Grogan, whom he described as a “very gentle and very kind man,” worked with famed Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton on his Family Rosary Crusade prayer movement, helping to plan Rosary crusades in San Francisco, Spain and the Philippines.

Father Peyton, whose cause for canonization was opened in 2001, was perhaps best known for coining the slogan, “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.”

But it was another slogan of Father Peyton’s that Father Looney felt was particularly apropos for the anniversary of 9/11, “A World at Prayer Is a World at Peace.”

Father Looney said “it was a great blessing for our community” that Archbishop Dolan was able to use Father Grogan’s chalice to offer Mass on the anniversary of 9/11.

The archbishop’s gesture speaks of the powerful bonds of priestly fraternity, often unspoken but deeply felt and shared. We can see evidence of it all around us in our parishes, and there is no better place to look than the table of the Lord.

JOHN WOODS, Editor's Report