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Msgr. Frank Mahler dies at 89

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Msgr. Frank E. Mahler, founding pastor of both St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria and St. Clare of Assisi Church in Clifton, died at St. Joseph Home in Richmond March 13. He was 89 years old.

A visitation and vigil service will be held at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington March 19 4:30-7:30 p.m. with a vigil service at 7:30 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at the Cathedral March 20 at 10 a.m., with interment to follow immediately at Fairfax Memorial Park, 9902 Braddock Rd., Fairfax. A reception will follow at Holy Spirit School, 5121 Woodland Way, Annandale.

He was born Dec. 15, 1929, on Long Island, N.Y. He attended local schools, graduating from high school in 1948. In 1952, he earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Jerome’s College in Kitchener, Ontario, and then entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.

Due to his mother’s illness, his ordination to the priesthood was moved by special permission from Richmond to New York City so that she could attend. He was ordained by Cardinal Francis Spellman on May 6, 1956.

Father Mahler’s first assignment was parochial vicar of St. Thomas More Church in Arlington, now the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. Prior to the founding of the Diocese of Arlington, he served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Richmond and St. Bernadette in Springfield. In 1966, he was named administrator of Our Lady of Nazareth Church in Roanoke and in 1967 he was appointed founding pastor of St. Lawrence Church in Alexandria.

Following two years serving in the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyo., and a one-year leave of absence, Father Mahler returned to ministry in the newly established Diocese of Arlington in 1975.  In that year he served as Parochial Vicar of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Arlington, and administrator of Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria.

Bishop Thomas J. Welsh then appointed him pastor of Good Shepherd Church and the pastor of St. John Church in McLean in 1979. In 1982 he was named Pontifical Prelate of Honor, with the title “Monsignor.”

Monsignor Mahler was pastor of St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg from 1986 to 1990. He then spent six years as parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria before Bishop John R. Keating named him the first pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Church in Clifton in 1996. He was named parochial vicar of St. James Church in Falls Church in 1998.  Monsignor Mahler retired from active ministry on December 15, 2004, his 75th birthday. He remained active in his retirement, first in residence at Blessed Sacrament Church and then as the first resident of the newly opened St. Rose of Lima Priests' Retirement Villa in Annandale in 2010. As his health began to decline in 2017, Monsignor Mahler moved to assisted living in Northern Virginia and then finally to St. Joseph Home, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor.

"With the clergy, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Monsignor Frank Mahler early this morning at the Little Sisters of the Poor residence in Richmond," said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. "Monsignor served faithfully, first in the Diocese of Richmond and then in the Diocese of Arlington after its establishment in 1974. In my brief time knowing him I came to appreciate his fidelity, generosity, and good humor. He provided all of us with a great example of priestly life and ministry. May the Lord now grant him the reward of his labors. 

"I also take this opportunity to thank the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and the Little Sisters of the Poor for their care of Monsignor over the past several years," he said. "Their solicitude for both his physical and spiritual wellbeing are a wonderful witness to the Gospel."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019