By Peter Biggins
Fr. Howley was the founding pastor of Saint Thomas More Church in Darien, Connecticut, in 1966 and served as pastor until his retirement in 1997. The Biggins family joined the parish in 1972.
Father Ed - Rest in Peace
Msgr. Howley served as Pastor here from 1966-1997. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 15, 1947, by Bishop Henry J. O’Brien of Hartford. He served in four parishes throughout his years of active ministry: Saint Mary, Stamford, CT (1947-1954); Saint Mary, Bethel, CT (1954-1960); Saint Joseph, Norwalk, CT (1960-1966); Saint Thomas More, Darien, CT (1966-1997). At the time of his retirement Msgr. Howley had been a priest for fifty years, thirty-one of which were spent as Pastor of Saint Thomas More Parish. Bishop Walter Curtis established Saint Thomas More Parish on September 16, 1966. In addition to being the parish’s first pastor, Msgr. Howley is credited, along with many other accomplishments, for having overseen the planning and construction of the parish church. He began the fund raising campaign in 1971. The church was dedicated on October 27, 1973. Said Father Murphy, "We continue to stand, both literally and figuratively, on the sure foundation laid down for us by Msgr. Howley."
Zita O'Brian wrote from Florida that "Father Ed passed peacefully at 12:15 pm today, June 6. Linda and I were with him,and his passing was gentle. Our first reaction was such sorrow, and then grateful thanksgiving to God for his life and his peaceful end to his suffering."
Jack Leonard was a member of Father's Youth Group at St Mary's in Bethel in 1954 and has been a friend of Fr Ed's through the years. He and his wife Sue wrote a letter to Fr. Howley before he died that Zita read to him daily in the time before he died.
Dear Fr. Howley,
Fr. Nick's Blog
Fr. Nick Punch had this to say in his June 2012 Blog:
I know I benefitted from Ed’s friendship; I know I am a different priest because of his influence. I think many people know themselves to be loved by God because of Ed’s preaching and kindness. I know God has welcomed him home and said. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”.
Fr. Nick's Homily
A Memorial Mass celebrating the life and ministry of Msgr. Howley was held at Saint Thomas More Church on July, 28. The celebrant was Father Paul Murphy and the homilist was Father Nick Punch. A reception followed. Here is Father Nick's homily:
Monsignor Edward Howley was a good friend, so I hope I can be excused for calling him “Ed”. This means no disrespect, rather affection. I know that for all of you here today, Ed was your priest and your pastor. We can all say that he was a great man and that is why we honor him today. His biography has already been recorded and so I don’t need to share those details. Instead I would like to explain why I honor his memory. I have obviously been helped and would like to acknowledge Zita O’Brian who knew Ed for longer and better than me for her thoughts. Other people too have told me of their memories. A priest isn’t ordained for himself but for others. It is a ministry of service. He also acknowledges that he does not minister in his own name but in the name of Jesus Christ. How was Jesus a priest for his people, how is Jesus a priest for us? The priesthood of Jesus Christ was present to us through Ed Howley and his lifetime of service. He was Christ for us.
Monsignor Howley Born in 1922
Warren Harding was President of the United States. Pius XI was Pope.
His parents, Patrick Howley and Mary Lynch, were married at Saint Francis Xavier Church in New Milford in 1912. Edward had three brothers and three sisters. Three children were born before Edward: Mary, Daniel, and Claire. Three children were born after Edward: Francis, Joseph, and Patricia. Joseph died as a child in 1930.
The Howleys owned a home in New Britain at 175 S. Main Street, practically next door to Saint Joseph Church. In 1939, they moved to nearby 68 Bassett Street. Edward's father Patrick Howley was a policeman and a carpenter and later a sexton at St. Joseph Church.
Edward's father, Patrick Howley, was born in 1879 on a farm on Woodside Avenue in Long Island City, New York. His paternal grandparents were John and Mary Kelly Howley.
Edward's grandfather, John Howley was born in Ireland in 1847, raised in Glasgow, Scotland, and emigrated to America with his family in 1869. John worked as a cooper, an ironworker, and a farmer. He died in 1905 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens (see Find A Grave).
Edward's grandmother, Mary Kelly was born in Ireland, raised in Manchester, England. She married John Howley in 1870. They had eight children. In 1871, John bought a plot in Old Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, to bury their first child, who died at six months. The family lived on Bushwick Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. In the 1880 census, John and Mary were living on a farm on Woodside Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, with four children and John's parents, Thomas 70 and Mary 65. The children were William 7, James 2, and eight-month old twins Patrick and Catherine. In the 1892 New York census, there were three more children, Margaret, George, and Edward, and John's mother was a widow.They were in Saint Mary of Winfield parish, then Saint Sebastian Parish after it was formed in 1894.
Edward's mother Mary Lynch was born in 1886 on a farm on Pumpkin Hill Road in New Milford, in Litchfield County, Connecticut. She was a public school teacher. Edward's maternal grandparents were Daniel and Mary Hastings Lynch. Both were born in Ireland in the Catholic Diocese of Killaloe in West Clare, an area wedged between the Shannon Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. They were from fishing villages on the Loophead Peninsula. Daniel Lynch, who was from Carrigaholt, emigrated in 1875 and settled in New Milford, Connecticut, after a brief time in Danbury. Mary Hastings' father was killed in a storm while fishing in a currach near the mouth of the River Shannon. Mary, who was from Cross, emigrated around 1875 with two teenage sisters and settled with an aunt in New Milford. Daniel worked at a hat factory in Danbury, and later got a job for the railroad, walking the track from New Milford to Gaylordsville. Mary worked at the New England House hotel in New Milford, eventually becoming a chef. They were married in New Milford in 1885. They had saved their money and bought an abandoned 40-acre tobacco farm on Pumpkin Hill Road, where their daughter Mary was born in 1886.
Daniel and Mary Lynch died in 1931 and are buried in Saint Francis Xavier Cemetery in New Milford, Connecticut (see Find A Grave).
Edward Howley went to Saint Joseph's Parochial School in New Britain, just a few doors down from where he lived. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chambery. Father Walsh, a parish priest, had a special Mass for children, which Edward attended.
Following graduation from elementary school in 1935, Edward decided to study for the priesthood and attended Saint Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, the minor seminary for the Diocese of Hartford. After six years at Saint Thomas, he went on for six more years to the major seminary of Saint Mary's in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1791, St. Mary's Seminary was the first Catholic seminary established in the United States. Saint Mary’s was founded and is still operated by the Sulpician Fathers, a community of diocesan priests dedicated to the formation of priests.
In place of his sixth year in the major seminary, 1946-47, Edward was prefect of discipline back at Saint Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield.
Monsignor Howley Ordained in 1947
Edward J. Howley was ordained a priest on May 15, 1947, by Bishop Henry J. O'Brien at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut. His brother, Francis P. Howley, a student at Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, was master of ceremonies at Father Howley's first solemn high mass at Saint Joseph's Church in New Britain.
At the time of Father Howley's ordination, the Diocese of Hartford included Fairfield County, which is where Father Howley served, in four parishes.
Saint Mary in Stamford, 1947 to 1954. Following ordination in 1947, Bishop O'Brien gave Father Howley his first assignment, Assistant Pastor at Saint Mary's Parish in Stamford.
On August 6, 1953, Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Bridgeport and installed Lawrence Shehan as its first Bishop. The new Diocese covered Fairfield County. As a result, Father Howley became part of the new Diocese of Bridgeport.
Saint Mary in Bethel, 1954 to 1960. In 1954, Bishop Shehan transferred Father Howley to Saint Mary's Parish in Bethel, where he served as Assistant Pastor and then Administrator. Father Howley was charged with the responsibility of building a school. Actress Barbara Britton, a Methodist, donated 10 acres of land on Dodgingtown Road, where the new school was built.
On December 21, 1959, Father Howley's father, Patrick Howley, died at age 80. He is buried at Saint Mary Cemetery in New Britain, Connecticut (see Find A Grave).
Saint Joseph in Norwalk, 1960 to 1966. In 1960, Bishop Shehan transfered Father Howley to Saint Joseph Parish in Norwalk, as Administrator.
During this time, Father Howley received a Master's degree in Education at Fairfield University. He also served at the university as a lecturer in Education.
In 1961, Pope John XXIII appointed Lawrence J. Shehan as Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore. The Pope named Walter W. Curtis as the second bishop of Bridgeport.
On October 9, 1961, Father Howley's mother, Mary Lynch Howley, died at age 75. She is buried at Saint Mary Cemetery in New Britain, Connecticut (see Find A Grave).
Saint Thomas More Parish, 1966 to 1997. Bishop Curtis created Saint Thomas More Parish on September 16, 1966, by carving it out of St. John's Parish. The new parish covered the part of Darien north of the railroad tracks. Originally the home of St. John's Parochial School, the property which included the school, a rectory, and convent, became the new parish. Mass was in the school's auditorium.
In 1968, Father Howley started a Children's Mass on Sunday, which continues to this day. Young children are involved through simple music, serving as altar boys and girls and readers, a Q&A homily, bringing up toys at the Offertory, and singing Happy Birthday at the end of Mass. It has always been a popular Mass for parishioners, some from surrounding towns.
A fund-raising campaign to construct a church building was begun in 1971. Through the dedication and generosity of hundreds of people, the church building became a reality and was dedicated on October 27, 1973. Chairman of the Building Fund was Jackson Spears. Chairman of the Building Committee was Phil Sparton.
The November 1984 Dialogue included a request from Father Howley for parishioners to become involved in a new organization provided for in Vaticann II called Rite of Chiristian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
In June 1986, the Youth Group at St. Thomas More made its first annual trip to Appalachia to build a home for a needy family. Sister Nancy Sutton of the Good Shepherd Mission in Whitley City, McCreary County, Kentucky, provides the Parish with the name of a family in need. The pastor accompanied the Youth Group along with several adult chaperones.
Fr. Howley's sister Claire Howley died on August 5, 1987, in New Britain, Connecticut, She was 67.
Iin 1988, Pope John Paul II accepted the retirement of Bishop Curtis and replaced him with Edward M. Egan, the third Bishop of Bridgeport.
In 1989, Father Howley was in need of a priest to help out at Saint Thomas More temporarily, and a Dominican priest put him in touch with Father Nicholas Punch, OP, who had just concluded his second term as Provincial of the Australian and New Zealand Dominicans. That was the beginning of annual visits to Saint Thomas More. "This was one of those meetings that change a life, said Fr. Punch. "Fr. Ed became a close friend, in fact I called him my Godfather since he became a father figure for me. I am proud to acknowledge him in that role."
In 1991, the parish celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Bishop Edward M. Egan celebrated Mass with Father Howley and parishioners. A 25th Anniversary booklet was published outlining the history of the parish. Bishop Egan noted that Saint Thomas More was the first parish in the Diocese of Bridgeport to have a Parish Advisory Council after the Second Vatican Council. He also noted that the parish was a leader in evangelization, in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and in "outreach" to parishes and institutions of the Diocese which serve those most in need.
Fr. Howley's brother Daniel J. Howley died on August 4, 1994, in Vernon, Connecticut. He was 78. He married Mildred C Branch in 1941 in Connecticut. They had three children during their marriage.
The year 1997 was a significant year for Father Howley.
Monsignor Howley Retires in 1997
Monsignor Edward J. Howley retired on October 13, 1997, his 75th birthday. All parishioners were invited to a party celebrating his retirement at the Italian Center in Stamford. He had been a priest for 50 years, 31 of which were spent as pastor of Saint Thomas More Church.
On January 2, 1998, Rev. J. Barry Furey was appointed second pastor of Saint Thomas More. Father Furey was ordained by Bishop Walter Curtis on May 15, 1971.
Father Howley's sister Mary C. Howley died on October 21, 1999, in West Hartford, Connecticut. She was 84. She had retired as the supervisor of Secondary Education in New Britain in 1980.
In 2006, the Parish celebrated its 40th Anniversary. A Mass was celebrated at Saint Thomas More Church by Bishop Lori with Father Furey and Father Post. Monsignor Howley was the homilist. He had three messages for his former parishioners.
Edward J. Howley lived at the Brookside Bluff Retirement Village in Zolfo Springs, Florida from 2002 to 2012.
Father Howley's brother Francis P. died in 2010 in Pasadena, California. He was 86. He had been Master of Ceremonies at Fr, Howley's first High Mass at St. Joseph Church.
Father Howley's sister Patricia Ann Howley died on January 23, 2011, in Glastonbury, Connecticut. She was 83. She had been a teacher at Smalley School for over 40 years.