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Diocese bids farewell to Msgr. Mahler

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Family, friends and fellow priests gathered to bid farewell to Msgr. Frank E. Mahler at his funeral Mass offered at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington on March 20. Msgr. Mahler died March 13 at age 89.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated the Mass, which was concelebrated by many priests from the diocese. Msgr. John C. Cregan was the homilist.

In his homily, he said Msgr. Mahler was a blessing to everyone he knew during his more than 60 years as a priest serving a wide variety of parishes throughout Northern Virginia.

He described Msgr. Mahler as a sociable and warmhearted person who loved to cook breakfast for his friends at the St. Rose of Lima Retirement Villa in Annandale, shared stories and jokes, and who enjoyed visiting with many friends accumulated over the long span of his priesthood.

“Frank was a good friend. He was generous, he was welcoming and he had a compassionate heart for people,” said Msgr. Cregan, who was pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria for many years. “His door was always open. He was an example always of what a priest should be.”

Msgr. Cregan also called for attendees to reflect on the true meaning of suffering during Lent and pray for the soul of Msgr. Mahler, who suffered from health problems during his later years.

“For the past two years now, we have all witnessed the sufferings of Msgr. Mahler — sufferings he experienced, one setback after another,” said Msgr. Cregan. “We pray now that the Lord reward him beyond his highest expectations.”

“We thank God this morning for the many, many graces that have come to our diocese through the ministry and joy that Msgr. Frank Mahler brought to so many,” he said. 

A native New Yorker, Msgr. Mahler was born in Long Island in 1929 and ordained in New York City by Cardinal Francis Spellman May 6, 1956. His first priestly assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Thomas More Church in Arlington, which later became the Cathedral.

Msgr. Mahler was founding pastor of St. Clare of Assisi in Clifton and St. Lawrence in Alexandria.

He retired from active ministry in 2004. Due to health problems, Msgr. Mahler moved to assisted living in 2017 and later resided at St. Joseph Home in Richmond, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. 

“It was one of Msgr. Mahler’s greatest joys to celebrate Mass, to preach the Gospel and to forgive sins. If we think about it, this is his last priestly act — he gathers all of us today around this altar, united with God’s Holy Mass and his brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Bishop Burbidge in his closing remarks.

At the conclusion of the service, priests sang a farewell hymn of prayer for Msgr. Mahler as his casket was carried from the cathedral. Arlington County police officers escorted the hearse on the way to Msgr. Mahler’s final resting place at Fairfax Memorial Park. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019