Fr. Gerard Creedon dies at 73

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This story was updated Nov. 21.

Father Thomas P. Ferguson, Diocesan Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, said Father Gerry Creedon was a “great role model and example” for him when he was considering a vocation to the priesthood. When he was a 14-year-old altar server, Father Creedon was his pastor. Flash-forward more than a decade, when Father Creedon preached at the new priest’s first Mass.

“The song that was Father Creedon’s life continues to be the music of our hearts forever,” Fr. Robert C. Cilinski

In what he called “a great blessing,” Father Ferguson was able to return the favor when he gave Father Creedon Anointing of the Sick and the last sacraments before his death Nov. 16 from complications following heart surgery. He was 73.

The longtime pastor of Holy Family Church in Dale City was beloved from Ireland to the Dominican Republic and throughout Virginia. He was known for being a voice for the poor, an accomplished poet and musician, and an inspiration to many.

A vigil was held at Holy Family Nov. 20. His funeral Mass was offered Nov. 21 at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, where he served as pastor from 1979 to 1991. The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, with Bishop Emeritus Paul S. Loverde; Diocese of Savannah Bishop Emeritus John K. Boland; and several diocesan priests concelebrating. Father Patrick Holroyd, pastor of St. Mark Church in Vienna, was the homilist.

“I only have come to know Father Creedon during the past year,” said Bishop Burbidge during remarks at the end of Mass. “During this time I have been moved by his commitment to the poor, his love and concern for the needy, and his joy and zeal for priestly ministry. I am very saddened by how quickly we have lost him.

“One of the final emails before he went into the hospital ended with the words ‘with prayers of gratitude and hope.’ Isn’t that how we gather today?” Bishop Burbidge asked. “With prayers and gratitude, giving thanks to God for the gift of his priestly life and ministry, especially to the least of our brothers and sisters. (We are) grateful to God for his presence in our midst and in our diocese.”

In his homily, Father Holroyd said, “Father Gerry was someone who came to us to remind us about being blessings, of the importance of reaching out to others as the Lord reaches out to us. He embraced that call to be (a) blessing to others.”

The standing room-only crowd in the church made their way into a reception after Mass in Father Gerry Creedon Hall. He will be buried in Ireland at a later time.

Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke, noted Father Creedon’s musical skills as a singer, violinist and mandolinist. “The song that was Father Creedon’s life continues to be the music of our hearts forever,” he said. “I think everyone is brokenhearted, which is a testament to how much he is loved.”

creedon funeral poster

A poster filled with photos of Fr. Gerry Creedon was on display at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria Nov. 21. ELIZABETH ELLIOTT | CATHOLIC HERALD 

 

Father Creedon was a prophetic voice in the diocese for the poor, said Father Cilinski. “He would always stand up and remind us about the next event that would be helpful to the needy in our midst,” he said. “His joyful spirit, his quick wit, brilliant mind and talent bore much fruit in the diocese and community.”

“He was my mentor and friend in Catholic Charities, Bánica, St. Charles and Holy Family,” said Father John T. O’Hara, parochial vicar of Holy Family, who served in Bánica after Father Creedon, and served as parochial vicar with Father Creedon at St. Charles and Holy Family for the past 22 years. “With him I felt affirmed, appreciated and inspired by his life and ministry.”

Father Creedon was born Feb. 16, 1944, in County Cork, Ireland, the fourth of 14 children to John J. and Margaret Creedon. His siblings include Therese Wilson; Nora Mary Hyde; Oliver; Bernard; Thomas; Joseph; Dominic; William J.; Miriam O’Connell; and Margaret O’Shea. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Dr. Cornelius, Dr. Richard and Michael Anthony Creedon.

Father Creedon attended All Hallows Seminary in Dublin and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Richmond June 16, 1968. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Latin from University College in Dublin (1964); a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union (1978); and a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America in Washington (1981).

He served as parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, 1968-75; St. Luke Church in McLean, 1975-78; and St. Agnes Church in Arlington, 1978-79; and pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, 1979-91.

Father Creedon served as director of diocesan Catholic Charities from 1981 to 1988. In 1991, he was assigned founding pastor of the diocesan mission in Bánica, Dominican Republic. Among the many projects he developed in Bánica were the opening of a pharmacy and a funeral home, an ambulance program, and the re-establishment of the relationship between the church and the community.

He returned to Virginia in 1995 when he became pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, where he served for the next 15 years.

In addition to his parish assignments, Father Creedon served the church and the wider community over the years in numerous capacities, including diocesan director of Catholic Relief Services and the Campaign for Human Development; founder of Catholics for Housing; founder of Gabriel Homes for people with disabilities; diocesan representative on the board of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy; board member of Social Action Linking Together (SALT); strategy team member of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE); and adviser to the Virginia Catholic Conference.

He developed the diocesan Peace and Justice Commission in 2002, for which he served as chair until his death. Under his leadership, the commission held numerous programs to increase understanding of Catholic social teaching and motivate action on behalf of peace and justice. Recent programs have included conferences on the death penalty, Gaudium et Spes, Pacem in Terris, labor and immigration, drone warfare, climate change and conflict.

Corinne Monogue, director of the diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries, worked with Father Creedon on the Peace and Justice Commission. She said they would ask him to moderate the biannual events. “He had a beautiful way of summarizing people’s concerns, framing them in Church teaching and looking for a way forward,” she said. “One of his greatest attributes was his advocacy for everyone and encouraging others to advocate for others.”

Monogue was changed by her experience. “I am not the same person I was before I joined the Peace and Justice Commission. I am ever grateful to him for allowing me to experience and open up my eyes, heart and soul to the seven principles of Catholic social teaching and integrate them into my everyday life.”

In addition to English, he spoke Spanish, Gaelic and French. His poetry was published in Poetry Ireland Review.

Father Creedon served on the Virginia Catholic Conference’s Respect Life, Health and Social Concerns Policy Committee from the organization’s beginning in 2005. “He was passionate about public policy and tireless in his advocacy for the poor and vulnerable,” said Jeff Caruso, executive director of Virginia Catholic Conference. “One thing that stands out is his energy level. He had an ability to do so many things to help others in his community and in the state through his advocacy.”

Caruso said Father Creedon kept up with state and national legislative issues and used what he learned about those issues to make a difference. Caruso added he was also a good friend.

Father Creedon was appointed pastor of Holy Family Church in 2010. Larry Pemberton, chairman of the parish pastoral council, said, “Father Creedon was a priest that cared about people. He worked his hardest to bring Holy Family together as a holy family. He did an excellent job and our parish is a better place because of that.”

Maddie Lupo, director of social ministry at Holy Family, was forever changed by her interactions with Father Creedon. “He would always tell me that love conquers fear and those words always rang in my ear. His energy was contagious,” she said. “He transformed my life and way of thinking and acting. I’m going to carry that on. I know I can never measure myself against him, but I will do things that I know will make him proud.”

Sarah Chevlin, principal of Holy Family School, said Father Creedon was so supportive of Catholic education. “He would celebrate every Mass with the students and loved the children,” she said. “He made everybody feel like he was a real friend. It is a huge loss for our community and throughout the diocese.”

Father Creedon was awarded posthumously First Home Alliance’s 2017 Alliance Leadership Award for his dedication, guidance and leadership Nov. 18. “Father Creedon advocated and persuaded financial institutions to invest resources into Prince William County, as well as non-profit community organizations like First Home Alliance,” said Larry J. Laws Sr., executive director of First Home Alliance.

He received the Della Strada Award from the Ignatian Volunteer Corps last April.

Julie Landrigan, parishioner of St. Ann Church in Arlington, said Father Creedon did a lot of good for the most needy. “Father Gerry was untiring in his work for the neediest people among us, and he called all of us to do more in the causes of social justice,” she said. “May we live up to the high standards he modeled for us.” 

Contributing to this story was Ann M. Augherton, Catholic Herald managing editor.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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