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Rutland pastor, Father James Kerrigan, 69

Posted By February 21, 2013 | 1:06 pm | Local
Kerrigan, JamesWEB

Father James Patrick Kerrigan, 69, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Rutland for nearly two dozen years, died February 15 in the rectory in his family’s presence.
Bishop McManus was principal celebrant, and Msgr. Francis J. Scollen homilist, for Father Kerrigan’s funeral Mass Feb. 21 in St. Patrick’s Church. Interment was to follow at St. John’s Cemetery in Worcester.
Parishioners had been praying a weekly rosary for the priest described as a good shepherd, who influenced their lives and the lives of people beyond the parish.
Deacon Brian E. Stidsen, a parishioner now serving the parish as a permanent deacon, said he and others started the rosary at the church – for their pastor and all who were ill – about a month ago, by making a few calls. He said the number coming to it probably doubled by the second week. People found it comforting.
“The last one was actually Ash Wednesday,” he said. “That was the night we brought him home from the hospital,” home to the rectory by ambulance, to be in hospice. “He wanted to go home. That was his home – he’d been there 24 years.”
He said he had been giving updates on Father Kerrigan’s condition, and that night he told parishioners their pastor was close by, in the rectory.
That pastor welcomed him when, as a non-Catholic, he came to church with his family, he said. Father Kerrigan later confirmed him when he joined the Church at the Easter Vigil about 12 years ago. And Father Kerrigan was a big influence in his becoming a permanent deacon last year.

“He was never forceful,” Deacon Stidsen said. He was just a good shepherd, fulfilling his promise to evangelize.
Deacon Stidsen said two other parishioners also became permanent deacons during Father Kerrigan’s tenure at St. Patrick’s:  Deacon Pierre G. L. Gemme, who serves there with him, and Deacon Paul T. Audette, now serving at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Worcester.
“It’s not just our parish family that’s impacted,” Deacon Stidsen said, in reference to Father Kerrigan’s death. “This is a small, close, ecumenical town. We’re very close with the Congregational Church next door. He had a lot of impact on a lot of people in town.”
Parishioner John K. Fitzgerald said the deacons now reach out, extending Father Kerrigan’s influence even further. He commended the priest for his willingness to take on two deacons to serve the parish.
Mr. Fitzgerald, who’s been at St. Patrick’s for 22 years, said Father Kerrigan was his only pastor there.
“He’s always been there for me,” he said. He said Father Kerrigan was probably the big reason why he is a lector and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, a member of the parish council and the cluster committee, and a former religious education teacher who is now a substitute teacher. Father Kerrigan was very welcoming but very unassuming, he said.
He said Father Kerrigan came to the Christmas Eve Mass, though Father Joseph M. Nally, minister to priests, was main celebrant.
“He said a few words at the end of Mass,” Mr. Fitzgerald said of Father Kerrigan. “He knew that we needed to see him. … Every time the rumblings would come about the transfers, he wouldn’t be well enough to transfer. He got to stay with us longer.”
“He basically kept me going in the Church,” said William L. Dow, now 17, whom Father Kerrigan trained as an altar server. “There were some times when I doubted and he kept me on track. … Through it all, family events, he really kind of kept me going; he kept my family going, with guidance.”
He called Father Kerrigan his shepherd in helping him get two religious medals from the Boy Scouts of America: Ad Altare Dei and Pope Pius XII.
Father Kerrigan, son of Irish immigrants – the late James B. and Mary A. (Baynes) Kerrigan – was born June 8, 1943 in Worcester. He graduated from St. Peter High School in Worcester in 1961 and prepared for the priesthood at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Warwick, R.I., and St. John Seminary in Brighton.
Bishop Harrington ordained him to the transitional diaconate June 8, 1969 in St. Paul Cathedral and to the priesthood May 15, 1970 in St. Bernard Church in Worcester, after he served his diaconate internship at Christ the King Parish in Worcester.
He was associate pastor of Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Worcester, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Hopedale, and St. Stephen and Our Lady of the Rosary parishes in Worcester. He was named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Brookfield in March 1984 and pastor of St. Patrick’s in June 1989.
He is survived by two sisters, Mary Lizotte and her husband, Bernard, of Buckeye, Arizona, and Theresa Shusas and her husband, Gerald, of Worcester; nephews and nieces, Kaitlyn and Emily Shusas, Brian and Matthew Lizotte, and Christine Marler.
Donations in Father Kerrigan’s memory may be made to St. Patrick’s Church, P.O. Box 939, Rutland, MA 01543, or the Clergy Benefit Plan, Diocese of Worcester, 49 Elm St., Worcester, MA 01609.