Rev. Joseph F. Callahan, C.S.C.

Rev. Joseph F. Callahan, C.S.C.
Feb. 28, 1944 – Apr. 21, 2019

EASTON, Mass. – Rev. Joseph Francis Callahan, C.S.C., 75, died at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, Attleboro, Mass., on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019.

He was born on February 28, 1944 in Bridgeport, Conn., to Francis A. and Margaret (Shannon) Callahan, and attended Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, Conn. He graduated from Stonehill College, North Easton, Mass., with a Bachelor of Arts in theology in 1966, and was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on July 15, 1962. He professed his First Vows on July 16, 1963, then obtained a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, in Rome, Italy in 1969. On April 1, 1970, Fr. Callahan made his final profession, then obtained his master’s in theology from the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 21, 1970.

After ordination, Fr. Callahan returned to his high school, Notre Dame High School in Bridgeport, Conn., where he taught until 1972. He joined the Holy Cross Mission Band in North Easton, Mass., in 1972, and from 1973 to 1977, served in Appalachian Ministry in Owingsville, Ky. He entered Province Service in 1977, serving as Justice & Peace Director, Assistant Provincial, and Provincial Councilor of the former Eastern Province over the course of five years. In 1982, he was elected Provincial Superior of the Province, and served in this capacity for six years. In 1990, he obtained a D.Min. at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., then served in parish ministry at Sacred Heart Church, Bronx, N.Y., from 1990 to 1992. From 1992 to 1994, he served as Parochial Vicar at the Church of St. Theresa in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., then as Parochial Vicar of the Church of St. Casimir in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. (1994 to 1999). From 1999 on, he served as Director and Spiritual Director of the Holy Cross Retreat House in North Easton, Mass., on the campus of Stonehill College, where he also resided.

Preceding him in death are his parents, Francis and Margaret Callahan; and sisters, Vivian Callahan and Margaret Sanford.

He is survived by his sister, Patricia (Robert) Hoyt of Little River, S.C.

Visitation will be from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (May 1, 2019) at the Chapel of Mary, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass., with a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at 10:00 a.m. Thursday (May 2, 2019) at Holy Cross Parish, Easton, Mass. Burial will follow at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery at Stonehill College.Kane Funeral Home of Easton, Mass., is in charge of the arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross via: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, 500 Washington Street, North Easton, Mass. 02356-1299 or online at

Wake Eulogy by Jim Orcutt, Founder of My Brother’s Keeper
May 1, 2019

Jim Orcutt – Remarks on the life of Father Joseph Callahan, C.S.C
Wake Service of May 1, 2019. Chapel of Mary, Stonehill College

As I wrote this reflection, I was mindful of one of Father Joe’s favorite sayings, “I’ve never heard anyone complain that the homily was too short.” I have known Father Joe Callahan for 20 years. Many here this evening have known Father Joe much longer. I am certain you could give a much broader, more complete picture of Joe’s life. However, I am reminded that Fr Joe often expressed his belief that we are not only “created” in the image of God, but through the experiences of our lives we are constantly “being created” into the image of God.

So, I will not speak so much about what Fr Joe was; instead, I hope to share the essence of what Father Joe became. Father Joe Callahan was a man blessed with many gifts. He was a scripture scholar, deeply principled, delightfully funny,a gifted preacher, a songster and music lover, a historian-especially baseball, a loyal brother and friend to all in Holy Cross and to a multitude of laity.

But above all…..Father Joe Callahan….was a healer of hearts. His greatest gift was his ability to help us reconcile our brokenness. Joe took our woundedness upon himself…and then led us to a deeper understanding and acceptance of the love and forgiveness of Jesus. A gentler man…..a kinder man, I have never known.

As we listened to tonight’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the tenderness and sensitivity of Father Joe came to life; “He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice….a bruised reed he will not break.” When we heard Deacon Dan proclaim Jesus’ words from the gospel; “that you should go forth and bear fruit.”……..

The truth is…..many of us present this evening are the living fruit, the harvest (if you will) of Fr Joe’s life in Christ. The Dutch priest and spiritualist, Father Henri Nouwen, wrote a book,entitled, “The Wounded Healer.” Nouwen said, “In our own woundedness we can become a source of life for others.” That was Joe. From “his” own woundedness Fr Joe led us to healing….and Jesus was then able to give us…life.

As all of us who loved Fr Joe are aware, for much of his life he fought depression. Joe was also plagued by a variety of physical ailments. Like Jesus on the cross, Fr. Joe neither complained nor hid the nails. In his humility, Joe’s infirmities were simply there…for all to see.

For those of us who laid the weight of our troubles, sins and sorrows upon Father Joe’s heart, the kindness in his eyes and his gentle murmurings brought us healing.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” ….”Mmmmmm” Fr Joe, without using words, allowed our hearts to “hear” Jesus saying; “I know how you feel. I do not judge you.” Through Father Joe, the compassion and love of Jesus was made tangible. We could feel it.

As a scripture scholar and student of the Bible, Joe was steeped in knowledge and wisdom. He was deeply respected by his brother clergy as a person…who knew of what he spoke. But Joe once shared with me….that for all his knowledge of scripture, it was “his interaction with people” that brought to life all that he had learned from books………….And so it was with Jesus, for as HE walked among the people, the scriptures also came to life. It was through Fr Joe’s pain and suffering and the pain that others shared with him…..that Joe himself, came to “feel the love of God” that he had spent a lifetime studying.

Through this holy man, Joe Callahan, many of us were able to embrace and internalize the reality that God loves us not only because of our goodness but despite our failings. That God loves us because the one thing, the only thing…impossible for God, is that He cannot stop loving us.

Before writing this reflection I spoke with people about “their” memories of Father Joe. One person, broken hearted at Joe’s passing, said; “There will never be another Fr Joe Callahan.” I desperately hope that’s not true. For if it is true, we have failed our friend.

For just as Jesus died so that others could know the love of God, so too did Father Joe live, so others could know the love of Jesus. It is up to us to make sure that we embrace the lessons that Joe taught us…..that we too become wounded healers.

On every retreat, Father Joe would say; “There is only one rule at the Retreat House….there is only one rule for life.

It’s on the sign above the chapel door;

“Love One Another…….Love One Another.”

All of us who “love you Joe”….say thank you; For through your suffering, through your love, through your life, you taught us what it means to love as Jesus did.

We bid you farewell Joe. Rejoice in the Peace of Heaven…dear friend.

Funeral Homily by Rev. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
May 2, 2019


Father Joseph F. Callahan, C.S.C.
R.I P.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 25: 6a,7-9
Responsorial Psalm 42-43
New Testament Reading: Romans 8: 26-30
Gospel Reading: John 19: 17-18, 25-30.

With sincere condolences to Father Joe Callahan’s sister Patricia Hoyt, and nieces and nephews, we the Holy Cross community and the Holy Cross Retreat House family, wish to express our sympathy for the passing of a brother, an uncle, a good friend, a good shepherd to hundreds upon hundreds of women and men touched by the generous, genial, warm, joyful love and faith of Father Joe. He was a man with a big heart open to God and open to all who were blessed to share even a few moments or many decades with him.

I beg your indulgence for a personal note. 20 years ago, Fathers Tom Lawton and Dick Sullivan concluded their service at Holy Cross Retreat House because of age and health. The survival of the retreat house was in question when a surprise proposal surfaced from Jim and Terry Orcutt and Deacon Dan Sullivan. They said if you give us Father Joe Callahan, we will provide a pastoral and administrative team for the Retreat house. And it will not cost the Province anything. I really liked that. Consulting with our Provincial Council, we agreed. Today, 20 years on, I have no doubt that this was Providence at work. Would you all please stand to salute and thank Jim and Terry and Deacon Dan and Father Joe, not only for helping the retreat house to survive but to thrive? { Standing ovation from the packed Holy Cross Church} Thank You!

A man with a big heart open to God is the best description I can fathom to capture the essence of Joseph F. Callahan, C.S.C. There were three brilliant ways, at least, in which Joe shared the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ with all of us.

First, as a young, smart, smiling priest, with a bit of swagger about him, just a few years after escaping from ten years of seminary training, Joe’s love of Jesus and his people brought him to the beautiful hills, mountains and people of Appalachia. That is the way he taught us to pronounce it. God’s holy mountain in Isaiah’s vision had nothing on the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. The materially poor people of these rolling hills and hollows enriched and inspired Joe’s faith. He returned their love and deep faith by persuading 26 bishops from 13 states to sign on to a pastoral letter that he played a major role in crafting. This pastoral letter’s title hints at Joe’s poetic spirit: THIS LAND IS HOME TO ME. With a hunger for justice, he helped give voice to the people of Appalachia’s concerns about mountain top removal mining, labor rights, private prison development, sustainability and climate change, clean air and water, health care and racism. This pastoral letter is recognized 37 years later as one of the most influential indigenous writings of the Catholic Church in our times. It is based on the Word of God in Scripture, Catholic social teaching and the painful testimony of thousands of poor working families. They shared their longing for a lost way of life. Because Joe took the time to be with them and listen with the ear of his heart, we can hear their plaintive laments in the pastoral letter’s poetry. Listen to just three lines:

“Once we all knew how to dance and sing.
Once we sat in mystery before the poet’s spell,
Once we felt our hearts rise to nature’s cathedral.”

Ah, he loved Appalachia and it and they loved him back.

Second, into everyone’s life trials and tribulations arrive as unwelcome guests. Often they bring us through days of brokenness to blessed Easter healing. For God’s sake, how else can He get our attention? When these unwelcome guests depart, they leave us, by God’s good grace, more open to the heart of God and to the hearts of others. Saint Paul in Romans says, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” And then these reassuring words, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” A good person who sat at Joe’s feet for spiritual direction for nine years assured me that this quote from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans was Joe’s favorite. Okay, Joe would never let anyone sit at his feet, rather they sat side by side, eye to eye, heart to heart as friends in the Lord, just as he did with all of us.

Third and finally, Joe loved the Word of God and became expert in its truth, beauty and goodness. Our former Superior General of happy memory, Father Tom Barosse, taught Joe to love the Word of God. Finding the scripture classes taught in Latin at the Gregorian University in Rome insufficient, Father Barosse invited the seminarians in his charge to return from morning class to study the Word of God with him in the Roman afternoons. He taught Joe that Christian faith is not a religion of the book, as much as we venerate the Scriptures: “Christianity is the religion of the word of God, not of a written and mute word, but of the Incarnate and Living Word.” {Saint Bernard of Clairvaux} This breathed life into Joe’s early love for God’s Word and placed the Risen Lord at the very center of his faith.

I do not know any more touching, haunting and consoling words in scripture than the ones we listened to a few moments ago. The Lord, dying on the Cross, entrusts to the Beloved Disciple his most precious gift, his own Mother. “’Woman, Behold your Son.’ And then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother.’”

Mary had welcomed the Word in her womb, cherished the Word in her home, marveled at the preaching of the Word, and, as his first true disciple, endured the excruciating suffering of the Passion and Crucifixion as the Lady of Sorrows. In all of human history, is there anyone who loved the Word of God more than Mary? Joe in his full maturity as a disciple, shared with Mary a profound love for the Incarnate Word. This love for the Word was the not so secret source of his joy. On Easter Day, the Word rises from the tomb and fills the whole world with joy, light, peace and hope.

How wonderful that this Easter, Mary and this Joseph shared together what we cannot now comprehend fully but hope to experience one day. May the Risen Lord Easter in all of our hearts. May He fill us with gratitude to God for allowing us to share the life of our Brother in Christ, Joseph F. Callahan, the man with a big heart open to God, and to all of us.

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