Rev. Albert Anthony Croce, C.S.C., 95, died Saturday (Feb. 22, 2014) at the Holy Cross Community House in North Dartmouth, Mass.
Visitation will be at the Chapel of Mary on the campus of Stonehill College (Easton, Mass.) from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday (February 26, 2014), with the Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Chapel of Mary at 10 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 27, 2014), with burial to follow at the Holy Cross community cemetery on Stonehill’s campus.
He was born on July 15, 1918, in Brockton, Mass., to Amato and Vincenza (Dantuono) Croce. He was the sixth of eight children. Following six years of employment as a tool designer for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, Conn., Fr. Croce was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on Aug. 15, 1943; and made his First Profession of Vows on Aug. 16, 1944. Fr. Croce received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1946. He made his Final Profession on June 3, 1948; and was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1950, after receiving a master’s in theology from Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C. Fr. Croce received a master’s in English literature from Notre Dame in 1952.
From 1952 to 1958, Fr. Croce was vice president of Notre Dame College, Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he also served as an English professor. From 1959 to 1961, he pioneered Scuola Media in Santa Croce, Italy. In 1961, he raised funds for Notre Dame College, while continuing his education at Boston University. From 1962 to 1963, Fr. Croce was chaplain for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Rutland, Mass. In 1963-1964, he co-pioneered the mission in Peru. The following year, he taught English at St. George’s College in Chile. From 1965 to 1972, Fr. Croce was assigned to teach English at King’s College, where he also served as director of student activities. In 1974, he became assistant to the president in development at Stonehill College. Fr. Croce was campus minister and director of Roncalli Hall at the College of St. Joseph , Rutland, Vt. In 1979, he was assigned pastor of both St. Mary Church in Brandon, Vt., and St. Monica Church, Forestdale, Vt. Fr. Croce retired to the Holy Cross Community at North Easton in 1988, and was appointed Superior of the community house in June 1989. In 1998, Fr. Croce moved to the Holy Cross Community at North Dartmouth, where he continued to assist parishes in the Diocese of Fall River.
In 2010, Fr. Croce celebrated his 60thJubilee as a Holy Cross priest. As a hobby, Fr. Croce decorated Faberge-style eggs. In 2012, he donated his collection of handmade, handcrafted Easter eggs to fund a scholarship in his name at Stonehill College. He alsogave undecorated eggs and supplies to Stonehill’s art department so that students couldlearnthe craft.
Fr. Croce’s parents, four sisters: Rose (Croce) Keough, Terese (Croce) Meaney, Olga (Croce) Barile, Dahlia (Croce) Perrotta; and his three brothers: Angelo, John and Edmund Croce are all deceased. Surviving family members include his nieces and nephews: Raymond Keough, Maurene Keough, Edward Meaney, Kathie Still, Paul Croce, Edmund Croce, John Croce, Carol Croce, Paula Croce, Lorraine Perrotta and Elaine Happnie. He is also survived by numerous first and second cousins.
Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online atdonate.holycrossusa.org.
Wake Eulogy by Rev. James Chichetto, C.S.C.
Feb. 26, 2014
A eulogy — eulogia, Classical Greek for “praise” — is a speech or text written in praise of a person who has recently passed on or has retired. Fr. Al, of course, has passed on, leaving behind a rich legacy of service, faith, hope, good will and many happy memories as a priest of Holy Cross and as a brother, friend, cousin and uncle of an extended family, related by blood and marriage.
We can come to look upon the death of a dear person, a friend or family member with much regret or sorrow because we will miss his/her presence as a dear friend or colleague; miss that person as a mentor or as a brother/sister; or even miss that person as a witness to our own lives and concerns; to our own jobs, ministries, relationships, securities and insecurities.
I think, however, Fr. Al would not look upon his life that way. That is, I don’t think he would want us to have any regrets or sorrow about his life or regrets that he has passed on. Fr. Al had a very full life. His life was as full as it was fulfilling. Like my own mother, he made it to his 95th year.
Fr. Al’s life was very full indeed. Before he entered Holy Cross, he was a talented tool designer and engineer for Pratt and Whitney. He was also the son of a gifted artist, who painted and embellished a number of murals in New England. Fr. Al absorbed many of the artistic techniques of his father. Whether Al was oil painting, fixing a clock or decorating an egg, one could always detect the systematic method or procedure he was executing to accomplish his task. Al was an expert craftsman and artist in that sense. He definitely had artistic ability of superior quality.
As a Holy Cross priest and missionary, Fr. Al was vice president of Notre Dame College, Dhaka, Bangladesh, founded a school in northern Italy and taught at and raised funds for other Holy Cross institutions in Chile and the U.S. At King’s College, Al taught English (he knew his Shakespeare and Keats very well!) and was later appointed director of Student Activities. Here at Stonehill, he worked in the Development Office as an assistant to the president, raising funds for scholarships. Indeed, Fr. Al was good in all things. When he retired from academics and college, he ministered as a chaplain at a V.A. hospital and then later became a pastor of a small parish in Vermont. He made many friends there and brought a number of people back to the Sacraments by his good will, his faith and his decency. The road was never long to Fr. Al’s rectory. It was always short. If he made a new friend one day, he never forgot the old friends he had made the day or month earlier. He was wealthy with friends and family.
Al was also a kind person and a generous one. Anything he acquired, he would give away. I know he was very generous any time I called on him and asked him to contribute one of his exquisitely decorated eggs to our Alumni Scholarship Auction. He took to heart Acts 20:35 in the New Testament: It is more blessed to give than to receive. He knew that the wise man in this life does not lay up treasure here. The more he gives in this life the more he has in the next.
We can sing so many praises of Fr. Al Croce, our brother in Holy Cross and the beloved uncle, cousin, sibling and friend of so many people. If he could be here this evening, in this chapel, I think Fr. Al would say, like St. Francis and other generous people of God, that when all is said and done, the real tragedy in life would have been to climb the ladder of achievement or success, as they say, only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong structure, the wrong edifice, the wall of egotism, the rampart of selfishness, the embankment of conceit. Instead, Fr. Al made sure his ladder leaned against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, trying to make every person feel important, feel accepted as a friend and child of God and loved unconditionally by a merciful and forgiving Father.
In all things, Fr. Al was successful; but his success was counted sweetest with Our Lord.
May Al Croce, our brother in Holy Cross, rest in peace and with his Beloved Savior and ours, Jesus Christ.
Funeral Homily by Rev. Charles Wallen, C.S.C.
Feb. 27, 2014
That’s not a very long reading, but long enough to provide motif for what we’re doing here this morning. We have come together to celebrate the life of Fr. Albert Croce. And his death.
Celebrate death? Oh yes! I know that death means grief and loss. But it also means Passover, the precious mystery of Judeo-Christian heritage; the mystery of liberation and destiny fulfilled, the mystery whereby the gift of life is kicked up a zillion notches to a new level; to where there is Jesus with the Father and the Spirit, with holy Mother Mary and her spouse, St Joseph; with Al’s parents, with Dahlia, Rose, Terry and their brothers. If that’s not cause for celebration, I don’t know what is.
But even if it weren’t for that fascinating future, Fr. Al’s life here on this planet is cause a-plenty for celebration. Priest of Holy Cross for more than 60 years, missionary, teacher, counselor, pastor, house-keeper and handy man which position we dignify with the title “local superior.” That’s a few of the different positions he held.
Whenever there was a tough spot to be filled “Send Al. He can handle it.” The State Department should have a few good men like him to send around the world troubleshooting. I saw him in action once in Sicily. Our car had been towed and the people said we couldn’t get it till the next day; whoever had to sign off on it had gone home, but we had to get on a ferry now or we we’d miss our flight back home. There are six or eight burly Italians telling us “no” and he’s like Horatio at the bridge. I thought we were going to get arrested, such shouting and yelling. I heard some Italian words I’d never heard before. But we got the car.
He was good not only at languages, but good also at adapting to foreign cultures. So they sent him to Pakistan, the Dolomites, Santiago, Vermont. And didn’t he love the Green Mountain state. In all his reminiscing, nothing came up more than his time in Brandon. And it wasn’t just the restaurants.
Al was a very temperate man, but no one ever accused him of being an ascetic. He loved music and the arts, including culinary arts. Strangely enough, although Italian, he wasn’t particularly interested in wines. But nothing could brighten his eyes like an oblong box reading Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, any of the Glens. That was his international proclivity coming out. Show him a picture of a lobster and he’d salivate like in a Pavlovian experiment.
As a bon vivant, though, Al was small time. He wasn’t serious about those things. But he was serious about his vocation, his priesthood in Holy Cross; trying to bring the love of Jesus to the peasants in Cartavio, the name of Jesus to Muslims in Dahka, preaching the Word in Easton, Avon, wherever. That was his real life. He loved it and was proud to be doing it under the aegis of Holy Cross.
He valued life in community, the brotherhood. A model for regular discipline, probably the first at anything scheduled, he liked to quote Fr. Sheedy who once said “The secret of community life is just showing up.” And show up, he did, faithfully. Especially for chapel, where he loved to sing. Down in North Dartmouth in recent years, we were often polyphonic because as, you know, he had significant hearing loss and had no idea what key we were singing in.
I used to kid him about getting a secretary, which he certainly didn’t need; he was so proficient at the keyboard. He had a vast correspondence. That’s the price you pay if you love people and are really interested in them, especially the family. He loved his family and loved to tell us about you. I know more about the Croces and the Dantuonos than I do my own family. He was proud of his people. But every Christmas was a crisis. “I’m not sending cards any more. Do you know what a stamp costs these days?” Not that he was cheap; well, maybe he was. He and Bob Rioux used to go to Foxwoods once in a while. And play the nickel slots. The last of the depression kids.
I’m not going to say anything about his eggery because his artistry speaks for itself. He did eggs because he loved doing it. But when he decided to turn it all over to the Stonehill Scholarship Fund, his industry maxed out. You wouldn’t believe the hours he put in at that work bench. So at the end of the service, when the remains will be incensed in that ancient ritual of honor and respect. I’ll be thinking of those hands, the hands that did all those eggs, the hands that blessed all those ninos, the hands that extended absolution, the hands that offered bread and wine.
Those consecrated hands were also very practical. And readily available. A lot of people are practical. Available? not so much. But nobody ever hesitated to say “Look at this, Al. Can you fix it?” You could impose on him without hesitation. And we did, because he was so capable. And affable. Capable is one thing; affable, that’s something else. Affable, able, amiable, that was Al a class “A” act.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a great feast upon the mountain rich juicy meats, fine, choice wines. He’s talking poetically. It’s really like baby-talk, because even Isaiah, one of the greatest of the great prophets, didn’t have the concepts, didn’t even have the vocabulary to speak of eternal life; to speak of what it’s like after the physical chassis is chucked? What’s it like after this? St. Paulsaid, “Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has in store for us.”It sounds great. So Fr. Al’s death is for us to celebrate; to celebrate as we do now in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.