Father Edmund J. Maher, 84, whose vocation to the priesthood came to fruition later in life, died Feb. 26.
Father Maher was born in New York City, the son of the late Bernard J. and Evelyn M. (Feeney) Maher. He attended Niagara University, La Salle College and Temple University, and taught social science and history on the junior high level in the Philadelphia public school system for 32 years. He did not enter St. Charles Borromeo Seminary until his mother’s death.
As the eldest of four with three sisters, “you could not ask for a better brother,” said his youngest sister, Bernadette Felix. Jokingly, “he told me I was supposed to be his brother not his sister. He was loving and understanding. He loved to travel and we went with him to Lourdes, Fatima and Rome. He was a trailblazer when he went into the seminary so late in life.”
Father Maher was ordained May 21, 1988 by Archbishop Anthony J. Bevilacqua at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. His assignments include parochial vicar at St. Bernadette Parish, Drexel Hill, and Stella Maris Parish in Philadelphia. In addition to his parochial assignments, Father Maher was moderator of the Philadelphia Catholic Guild for All Blind, chaplain for the Catholic League for Physically Disabled People, chaplain for the Philadelphia Chapter, Knights of Columbus and chaplain for the Blessed Cardinal Newman Alumni Group.
In addition to his final assignment at St. William Parish in Philadelphia, he was an active parishioner there for many years as a layman. Father Joseph G. Watson, the pastor of St. William, grew up in the parish and remembers Father Maher as one of the original lectors.
“He just didn’t read the Word, he proclaimed the Word,” said Father Watson, who was the master of ceremonies at Father Maher’s first Mass. “When I got to the seminary he was already there and he welcomed me.”
At St. Charles, Father Maher was the oldest in his class and Msgr. Joseph McLoone was the youngest.
“He had a wonderful booming voice and he was a genuinely outgoing, kind person with a heart of gold,” Msgr. McLoone remembers. “If you said you needed a ride to Cleveland, you would be in the car with him in an hour. He preached the Gospel and he lived the Gospel by simple acts of kindness.”
Father James Oliver, another seminary classmate, remembers Father Maher for his volunteerism, always doing for others and at one point was nominated to be the city’s volunteer of the year.
Poor health forced his retirement 10 years ago, but even then, “he was always helping others, celebrating Masses in parishes,” Father Oliver said.
Father Maher’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput at St. William Church at 11 a.m., March 4. Concelebrants included Msgr. James E. Mortimer, Fathers John D. Schiele and James P. Olson, Father Oliver and Msgr. McLoone, who was the homilist.
Father Maher is also survived by his sisters, Joan Doyle and Evelyn Waltemate and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. Interment will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Philadelphia.
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and a member of St. Leo Parish, Philadelphia.
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