It was a bittersweet moment for parishioners of Sr. Francis de Sales Church in Charlestown Sunday as the church’s longtime parish priest and Boston Fire Department chaplain, Father Dan Mahoney, said goodbye.
A legend in the Charlestown community Fr. Mahoney, or Father Dan as he was affectionately known in the neighborhood, has not only served as St. Francis’s parish priest for over five decades but as the Fire Department’s chaplain. He is only the eighth pastor of the oldest Boston Catholic Church’s 160 year history.
On Sunday, in front of a packed St. Francis Father Dan gave his final mass before entering into retirement at the age of 92.
‘Sunday’s outpouring of support for Father Dan displayed how many lives he has touched in his lifetime of service to others,” said Rep. Dan Ryan who served as an altar boy for Father Dan. “Especially evident was his commitment to firefighting families and the people of Charlestown. He will be missed. But, as a parish and community we are blessed to have 54 years of memories to share.’”
Another former St. Francis altar boy Michael Norris added, “Father Dan is everything right with what we believe in. He was, and is a major influence as to who we are. I could go on and on. This is a bittersweet moment, however, I am proud to say I was one of his altar boys. What a bunch of success he commandeered.”
The church Sunday was filled not only with St. Francis parishioners but a large contingent of the Boston Fire Department, dressed in their uniforms, crowded into the church for Father Dan’s last mass.
“He’s really the spiritual guardian of the department; I consider him the moral compass,” said Boston Fire Commissioner Jack Dempsey after the mass. “Everyone is awestruck by the amount of time Father Dan has given to the Fire Department.”
Father Dan’s importance to firefighters was not limited to only Boston but to other parts of New England where his service as a spiritual guide, most often than not during times of great tragedy, resonated with other departments.
“Rev. Mahoney has always been on the frontlines for IAFF Local 718 (Boston Firefighters Union) members and their families and has brought comfort to many over his 60-years of service to his god, faith, his parish, the community and our members and their families,” said the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine in a statement. “It was a pleasure to meet and talk with him over the years. Father Mahoney the PFFMaine thanks you for all you have done and wish you all the best.”