Father John E. Fitzgerald, 85, a former pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Levittown and former principal of Bishop Shanahan High School, died Oct. 20.
Born in Philadelphia, the son of the late Albert and the late Gertrude (Clark) Fitzgerald, he attended St. Francis Xavier School in the city’s Fairmount section and La Salle College High School before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
He was ordained May 11, 1957 by Archbishop John F. O’Hara at Immaculate Conception Church, Germantown, Philadelphia and his first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish, Ashland.
He also served as parochial vicar at Annunciation, Shenandoah; Annunciation B.V.M., Philadelphia; St. Helena, Philadelphia; Nativity B.V.M., Philadelphia and St. Margaret, Narberth. He served as a faculty member at Bishop Kenrick High School and principal of Bishop Shanahan. He was administrator of St. Albert the Great Parish, Huntingdon Valley and in 1984 was named pastor of Immaculate Conception, Levittown.
In 2000, as a senior priest he served at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Philadelphia and after his retirement in 2004 he resided at St. Anselm Parish, Philadelphia.
Although teaching is not listed as his assignment during the years he was at Annunciation Parish in Shenandoah, that’s really what he did at the high school there. “He taught six classes of religion a day, he loved teaching,” said Father Charles Gormley, a good friend from the days they were both assigned to St. Helena Parish. “He was very perceptive, with a fine sense, always with little quips of humor, and had a fine way with people.”
His impact in Shenandoah so many years ago was such that “four of his pupils came down for his 80th birthday celebration,” Father Gormley said.
After his retirement Father Fitzgerald wanted to stay at a parish, and Father Thomas Dunleavy at St. Anselm welcomed having a retired priest living there who would celebrate Mass. But that’s not all he did — he also conducted a Saturday morning Scripture class to cover the weekend’s Mass readings and facilitate discussions about them, Father Dunleavy explained.
Possibly Father Fitzgerald will best be remembered for his compassion for those who are grieving. He was a co-founder of To Live Again (TLA), a group that supports people who have had a loss especially of a spouse, and his active support for Project Rachel, for women recovering from the pain of abortion.
“He was always interested in the poor and helping people to get their lives back together,” Father Dunleavy said.
Father Fitzgerald’s funeral Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Robert P. Maginnis at St. Anselm on Friday, Oct. 24 at 11 a.m. Concelebrants will include Msgrs. Michael Carroll, Ignatius Murray and Joseph Murray; Fathers George Boyle, Keith Chylinski and Richard Rudy; and Father Gormley and Father Dunleavy, who will be the homilist.
Father Fitzgerald is survived by his sister, Mary Everett, and nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.
Interment will be at Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.