By William T. Clew
LEICESTER – Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley, who died Sept. 19, 2015, was honored Wednesday at the McAuley Nazareth Home for Boys, where he served for almost 60 years.
At a ceremony and dinner attended by the McAuley Nazareth extended family, the gymnasium was officially named the Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley Gymnasium. A plaque bearing his name and picture was mounted above the inside doors to the gym.
Father Robert A. Loftus, pastor of St. Joseph-St. Pius X Parish, read the dedication: “We dedicate this play space to Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley, who loved sports and competition, and always encouraged us to play with a spirit of joy. Father, we believe that you have created us to not only work but to play. Thank you for the playful spirit we see in children and young people.
“Teach us to play well and often. Help us to play fairly in this gym. You are the giver of good gifts, you gave us this good space for us to play. We pray that we may grow and flourish here together. Help us to model good sportsmanship and live in a way that is pleasing to you, our heavenly Father. Amen.”
Kim Pare, executive director of McAuley Nazareth, welcomed the guests, including the 26 boys who are residents of the home, and their families. Also attending were board members, supporters and friends of McAuley Nazareth. She talked about Msgr. Tinsley’s long involvement with the home.
“He came here when it was an orphanage,” she said, and stayed through its transition to a residential home for boys.
Sister Janet Ballentine, one of the Sisters of Mercy who worked with Msgr. Tinsley at Nazareth Home for years, said the blessing before the meal. Members of the Boy Scout Troop and Cub Scout Pack at the home led the guests in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. The dinner also served as the Blue and Gold banquet honoring the scouts and cubs.
The gymnasium, built about 10 years ago during a renovation of the facility, is a fitting place to carry the monsignor’s name. As a young athlete at Classical High School in Worcester, he was an All City All Star in both basketball and baseball. He went to the College of the Holy Cross on an athletic scholarship, but left after a couple of years to follow his calling as a priest. He studied for the priesthood in Montreal and was ordained a priest in 1951 by Bishop Wright. Later he earned a master’s degree in social work from Boston College School of Social Work.
In 1958 he was named assistant resident chaplain at McAuley Nazareth, which started as an orphanage and later transitioned to a home for emotionally troubled boys ranging from 5 or 6 years old to high school age. Later he was named resident chaplain.
Three Sisters of Mercy, who worked at McAuley Nazareth with Msgr. Tinsley for more than 50 years and cared for him in his last years of life, told The Catholic Free Press about his dedication and contributions to the home.
Sister Janet was director, and a teacher, social worker and child care worker there. Sister Mary Barry was executive director, and a teacher, secretary and treasurer. Sister Carol Kell was director of the nursing program and a child care worker.
Though they are “retired” now, they all are incorporators and members of the board of directors and they volunteer at the home.
The sisters said that Msgr. Tinsley was always connected with and interested in the home and its programs, whether he lived there or elsewhere, no matter what other jobs he had.
In 1960 he developed a 10-year plan to create a professional personnel staff and a physical plant to best serve the children with special needs and their families.
He also developed an ARCHway program to give autistic children compassionate care, a good education and an opportunity to enjoy a healthy, happy lifestyle.
He was a motivator and an inspiration “not just to us, but to the staff,” the sisters said.
They said dedicating the gymnasium to him is a way of keeping alive his memory, legacy and lifetime of service, and is especially appropriate because of his interest in sports. He celebrated Mass at the home every week until he died, they said. After Mass, he would sit with the boys and talk about sports.
“You’d think sports were part of Mass,” Sister Mary said.
In addition to his work at Nazareth Home, Msgr. Tinsley held many other jobs in the Diocese.
In 1957 he was named assistant director of Catholic Charities, and in 1987 director. He continued as diocesan director of human services, a position he began in 1983.
He was diocesan vicar general from 1988 to 1994. In 1991 he was named director of the diocesan Office of Fiscal Affairs, a position he held until he retired in 2008.
Parishes he served as associate pastor were of Our Lady Immaculate, Athol; St. Mary, Jefferson, and St. Leo, Leominster.
He also served as temporary president of St. Vincent Hospital. He was diocesan director of the Catholic Relief Services Overseas Fund Appeal and diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
Msgr. Tinsley received numerous awards, including one in 1975 from the Association of Mentally Ill Children – for outstanding service to autistic children. In 1987 he received the Beverly Ross Fliegel Public Service Award from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers – in recognition of more than 30 years of public service in Central Massachusetts.
In addition to the plaque for McAuley Nazareth Home’s gymnasium, there is a bench on the property, in front of a Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, with Msgr.Tinsley’s name, along with two inscriptions. One says “Sit awhile and pray.” The other, on the back of the bench, says “In honor of a lifetime of service.”
The sisters said Msgr. Tinsley never wanted to talk about himself, nor did he want anything named for him.
“And after you die?” he was asked.
He was okay with that, the sisters said.