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Diocese of Rockville Centre

Pastor Emeritus St. Christopher Church, Baldwin
First Diocesan Director of Confraternity of Christian Doctrine


Monsignor Joseph F. Lawlor who served as a priest of the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre for 69 years died January 1, 2005 at St. Joseph’s Guest House in Huntington. He was 93 years old.

A Brooklyn native, Joseph Francis Lawlor was born on August 20, 1911 to the late Thomas and Anna Kenny Lawlor. He was baptized at Queen of All Saints Church and graduated from the parish school. He continued his studies at Cathedral College in Brooklyn and the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington.

He was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas E. Molloy at St. James Pro-Cathedral in Brooklyn on June 15, 1935.

Father Lawlor’s first assignment at St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hempstead lasted three years. He would spend over two decades at his next assignment at St. Joachim Parish in Cedarhurst where he taught religion in the school daily. While there, he founded the Cedarhurst Little League and Babe Ruth League in 1951 and served as president for seven years. He was also the founder and Chairman of the Annual Catholic Youth Day program for high school students that was held at St. Joseph’s Academy in Brentwood from 1947 to 1962.

When the Diocese of Rockville Centre was created in 1957, founding Bishop Walter P. Kellenberg realized parish schools could not accommodate all the Catholic children on Long Island and another way was needed to teach them the tenets of their faith. Because of his involvement with young people on the elementary and high school level, Father Lawlor was chosen to be the diocese’s director of Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), starting September 8, 1957. He was named director of the Christian Family Movement in 1960 and the following year was appointed the director of the Family Life Bureau.

In his eight years as the director of CCD, Father Lawlor organized and coordinated the confraternity program to run diocesan-wide on a weekly basis from September to May and provided the basis for the training of the volunteer teaching staffs. He oversaw the emergence of lay people as coordinators of the religious education programs on the parish level, and convened the Diocesan Congress for Religious Education in 1961. At Bishop Kellenberg’s request, Father Lawlor also initiated a program for non-Catholics who were interested in learning more about the Catholic religion. As part of the Family Life Bureau, Father Lawlor organized the first Golden Wedding Blessing to honor couples who had been married for 50 years or more which was held in 1963. These Golden Wedding Ceremonies are still celebrated in the diocese.

In 1959 Father Lawlor became the Chaplain at St. Christopher’s Home for Infants in Sea Cliff (now known as St. Christopher-Ottilie). In 1962 he was named Rector at St. Camillus Residence in East Meadow, a residence for priests on special assignment.

Father Lawlor was appointed pastor of St. Peter Alcantara Parish in Port Washington in March of 1964. He was instrumental in constructing additional facilities for the parish school and rehabilitating the lower level of the church. Later that month Monsignor Lawlor was named to the newly formed Board of Directors at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. He was elected Chairman of the Board of the Hospital in 1970 and served until 1977, a period of extensive fund-raising and construction at the facility. He also served on the Board of Directors at Mercy Hospital from 1967 to 1977 and as a Diocesan Consultor from 1966 to 1977.

Father Lawlor was elevated to Papal Chamberlain by Pope John XXIII in 1962 with the title of Reverend Monsignor.

In 1967, Monsignor Lawlor was assigned to St. Christopher Church in Baldwin as Pastor. In his 19 years there, Monsignor Lawlor oversaw extensive renovations in the school and the rectory, organized the St. Vincent de Paul Conference at the parish, started the Parish Council, Parish School Board and the annual Parish Feast. He retired in 1986. At that time, the meeting room in the school building was renamed Monsignor Lawlor Hall in his honor.

A wake for Monsignor Lawlor was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, January 3 and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 4 in Monsignor Lawlor Hall of St. Christopher’s School.

Monsignor John F. Bennett, the current Pastor of St. Christopher’s Church and Dean of the Rockville Centre Deanery, will be the principal celebrant at the Vigil Mass for Monsignor Lawlor at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 4 at St. Christopher Church in Baldwin. Father Francis X. Eisele will be the homilist.

Bishop William F. Murphy will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Wednesday, January 5 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Christopher Church. Monsignor John F. Bennett will deliver the homily. Burial will be at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village.

Monsignor Lawlor is survived by his nieces, Sister of St. Joseph Loretta Scully and Ann Marie Kelly, and nephews Thomas, Gerard and Joseph Lawlor.