By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
PHILADELPHIA — The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul was filled Jan. 5 for the funeral Mass of Dr. John P. Pryor, 42, a U.S. Army Reserve Major and the Trauma Program director for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Pryor was in his second tour of duty as a trauma surgeon near Mosul, Iraq, when he was killed by a mortar round on Christmas Day. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Carmela Calvo, and their three young children: Danielle, Francis Xavier and John Jr.
Born in New York and a resident of Moorestown, N.J., his funeral was held in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia because of the great number of extended family, friends, uniformed members of the military and medical colleagues who wished to attend.
Father Damian McElroy, pastor of Pryor’s home parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Moorestown, and principal celebrant of the funeral Mass, spoke eloquently of Pryor’s spirit of sacrifice. He told how, after the tragedy of 9/11, he dropped everything and rushed to New York and Ground Zero where he worked through the night assisting the injured. He told how four years ago Pryor joined the Army Reserves because he knew the surgical skills honed by treating victims of violence in Philadelphia were needed there.
Pryor’s first tour of duty in Iraq was two year ago, and against the wishes of family and friends, he accepted a second tour beginning in December. He knew he was putting himself in harm’s way and apologized to them in writing for doing what he believed he must do.
“He felt very strongly about his duty to serve, especially in war time,” Father McElroy said.
“John loved his family, he loved his children, he lived and breathed for them. He felt saving lives justified the sacrifice … He loved his life here, he served humanity generously and he served God generously.”
Pryor will also be missed at HUP. A statement issued by the hospital at his death spoke of the surgeon’s passion for service and giving back. It said Pryor “was a magical man, with boundless energy and goodness. He was a devoted son, husband, father, colleague and friend. He was an outstanding physician, gifted surgeon, teacher and mentor.”
Concelebrating Pryor’s funeral Mass were Father James O’Neill, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Redemptorist Father Francis Gargani, a cousin, and Father Joseph DiGregorio, a former Army chaplain.
Burial with full military honors presided over by Lt. General Eric Schoomaker, surgeon general of the Army, was at Colestown Cemetery in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.