The Very Rev. Lawrence Joseph Conley, V.F., 72
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PORTLAND -- The Very Reverend Lawrence Joseph Conley, V.F., 72, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland for 45 years, died peacefully at Mercy Hospital on Friday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2012, from complications of a recent illness, with his brother priests at his side.
He was born on Aug. 14, 1940, the son and only child of Lawrence Conley of Galway, Ireland and Delia Cunningham of County Mayo, Ireland. He grew up in Portland and attended St. Dominic's Grammar School and Cheverus High School. He graduated from St. Francis College (now University of New England) in 1962, and then entered St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., to prepare for the priesthood.
Fr. Conley was ordained a priest on May 20, 1967, by Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, and was appointed associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Westbrook. Subsequently, Father also served as associate pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Portland, St. Joseph's Parish in Lewiston, and Sacred Heart Parish in Portland. In 1980, Father Conley was named pastor of St. Christopher's Parish on Peaks Island. Two years later, Father was appointed the Diocesan Director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Portland as well as pastor of Our Lady of Wisdom Parish in Orono, and served in this capacity until 1987 when he was named pastor of St. Mary's Parish in Biddeford. Father Conley then served as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norway from 1996 until 2000, and pastor of St. Anne Parish in Gorham for the next ten years until his 'retirement' in 2010.
Father Conley has served the Diocese of Portland in many posts throughout his years as a priest. These included membership on the Diocesan Liturgical Commission where he served as its Chairperson for three terms. He was a member of the Diocesan Music Commission and also served as its Chairperson. He was also a member of the Diocesan Personnel Board. Fr. Conley served two terms as a Dean for the Diocese of Portland.
In 1980, Father Conley was named Diocesan Moderator of the Maine Council of Catholic Women and also served a term as the Province Moderator for the Boston Province of the Council of Catholic Women, and most notably, served two terms as the National Chairman of the Diocesan Moderators of the Council of Catholic Women in the United States and was a four-year member of the Executive Board of the National Council of Catholic Women in the United States.
Upon retirement in August, 2010, Father Larry took up residence in Cathedral Rectory and joined the pastoral team of priests serving the Portland area parishes of Cathedral, St. Peter, St. Louis, Sacred Heart/St. Dominic, and St. Christopher (Peaks Island). Father Larry enjoyed a very active 'retirement,' and continued to preside at multiple Sunday and weekday Masses at the five parishes, hear confessions every Saturday, and offer pastoral care to parishioners. Having spent so
Very Rev. Lawrence Joseph Conley
much of his life and ministry in the Portland area, many parishioners knew him well, and so Father Larry was frequently requested to preside at a numberof funeral Masses during these past two years of his retirement. He also took a great interest in helping to mentor seminarians. Last year, upon the recommendation of his fellow priests, Bishop Richard Malone appointed Father Conley as the Vicar Forane for Vicariate IV. This was a role that Father assumed with great dedication and vigor.
Father was recently invested in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and was a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
Father Larry will be fondly remembered in the hearts of his former parishioners, friends, and fellow priests for his kindness, generosity, compassion and his deep passion for exercising his priestly ministry. He loved everything about Christmas-no one celebrated the birth of the Lord more fervently than Father Larry. Father's 'Christmas Village' is legendary. And being so proud of his rich Irish heritage, Father Larry also celebrated St. Patrick's Day with zeal and great joy. He looked forward to getting together with his old childhood friends at Dimillo's Restaurant every Sunday evening, and was instrumental in planning regular gatherings of the clergy because he so enjoyed and appreciated opportunities for fellowship with his brother priests. Father prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at Cathedral rectory for his priest friends last week just as he has been doing for a number of years past.
Fr. Conley faced these last days and made some personal, end-of-life decisions with great clarity of mind, as well as with admirable courage, profound faith, and genuine hope in the Lord.
Visitation was held on Sunday from 4-6 p.m. at Sacred Heart/St. Dominic's Church, corner of Mellen and Sherman Streets, Portland. A reception of the body and Liturgy of the Hours was held at 4 p.m. on Monday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St., Portland. The Very Rev. Louis Phillips, Rector of the Cathedral presided. Fr. Conley laid in state at the Cathedral from 4:30-8 p.m. A concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the Cathedral, with the Most Rev. Joseph Gerry, O.S.B. as principal celebrant. The Very Rev. John Skehan will be the homilist. Arrangements are under the care of the Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 172 State St., Portland. On line condolences may be expressed at www.ctcrawford.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Fr. Conley's memory are suggested to:
Diocesan and Priest Benefit Plan 510 Ocean Ave.
Portland, Portland, Maine 04103
or the Sisters of Mercy
966 Riverside St.
Portland, Maine 04103
Conroy Tully Walker Funeral Homes and Cremation Services
172 State Street
Portland, ME 04101
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Dec. 4, 2012