By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
JAMISON – John Lally is not the average altar server. At age 89, he serves the 9 a.m. Mass at his parish, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Monday through Saturday. And on some Sundays – the only day Lally isn’t a server – he’s a lector at the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
“I have a great love for God,” Lally said. “Without God, where would we be?”
A Philadelphia native, Lally was baptized at Ascension of Our Lord Church and raised in St. Matthew Parish. He was just a boy when he served Mass for the first time at St. Matthew Church. “I was nervous,” he recalled. “The Mass was in Latin at that time. I did pretty good.”
Lally said his greatest thrill as an altar server occurred in 2005, when he served Mass at the Vatican. That privilege, he said, was facilitated through Msgr. Robert J. Powell, the pastor of St. Cyril. He also considers it an honor to serve Mass for Retired Auxilary Bishop Martin N. Lohmuller, who resides at St. Cyril’s.
Lally graduated from St. Dominic School in 1935 and from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1939.
As a sergeant in the U.S. Air Corps, he served in the China-Burma-India Theater from 1941 to 1943. There, he serviced planes. And he served daily Mass in a bamboo hut.
After the war, he worked for 30 years as a control analyst at the chemical plant Rohm & Haas in Bristol.
He and his late wife, Margaret Mary Revelis, were married in February 1948. They lived in Incarnation Parish and Our Lady of Calvary Parish in Philadelphia before settling in St. Cyril Parish in the 1970s.
They raised six children before her death in 2001. Their firstborn, Francis Xavier, died in infancy. Lally is also the grandfather of 14.
Lally celebrated his 89th birthday on Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving. “I’m thankful for God giving me my health and my 89 years,” he said.
Lally said he weighed one-and-a-half pounds at birth. “They used to bathe me with olive oil and put doll clothes on me.” He also survived a diphtheria scare at age 5, a heart murmur and a kidney infection.
He follows Philadelphia Phillies baseball and Notre Dame football. He still can’t believe the Phillies won the World Series this year. One of his prized possessions is the photo album that chronicles trips he’s made to Notre Dame games. “I had my picture taken with the cheerleaders,” he said. “I show everybody.”
Lally is an advocate of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. “It enlightens me,” he said. “I pray a lot. There’s no limit to the power of prayer.
“Every day I pray that I’ll die in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I love God so much.”
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.