Father Alfred W. Harding, MM
Born: January 17, 1909
Ordained: June 11, 1933
Died: July 27, 1995
Father Alfred Harding died at St. Teresa’s Residence, Maryknoll, New York, at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, 1995. Father Harding was 86 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 62 years.
Alfred Harding was born on January 17, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York, son of Harry Patrick Harding and Margaret Brown Harding. He had one sister, two years his senior. A cousin, Thomas Aquinas Wilson, was raised by Father Harding’s father and mother and later became a Xaverian Brother. Alfred attended Holy Cross Grade School and graduated in June 1927 from Cathedral Preparatory School, a diocesan institution which prepares seminarians for the Brooklyn Diocese. He studied under the Sulpicians at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, Maryland, for three years as a candidate for the Diocese of Brooklyn. From a very early age, he felt called to foreign mission priesthood, but parental objection and lack of encouragement from the priests he knew prevented him from following that calling. Following the counsel of his Spiritual Director at St. Mary’s and with the approval of his Bishop, he applied for entrance to Maryknoll when he reached the age of twenty-one. Alfred entered Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York, on September 6,1930 and was ordained a priest at Maryknoll Seminary on June 11, 1933.
After ordination Father Harding was assigned to the Faculty of Maryknoll Junior Seminary, Mountain View, California, for one year. On July 12, 1934, he was assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Peng Yang, Korea. He served as Assistant Pastor in the Anchu mission for two years and gained a good command of the Korean language and customs. In 1937, he was appointed Pastor of the Heijo Mission.
When World War II started in the Pacific in December 1941, Father Harding was in Japan enroute to the United States for Home Leave. Along with other Maryknollers there, he was interned by the Japanese military and in September 1942 was repatriated to the United States aboard the Swedish repatriation ship Gripsholm. After serving for a short time in Honduras, Central America, as a civilian chaplain to members of the U.S. Armed Forces stationed there, he returned to Maryknoll Center in New York. On June 14,1943, he was given permission to work in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Magna, Utah. He served in that capacity until December 1,1946 when he was transferred to Akron, Ohio, to serve as Director of the Maryknoll Promotion House.
On April 29, 1947, Father Harding was assigned to the Maryknoll Mission in Hawaii. He served as Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Naalehu on the Island of Hawaii. For health reasons, he was recalled to the Mainland United States for a period of recuperation. On June 19, 1950, Father Harding again received permission to help out in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, as Pastor of St. Henry’s Parish in Brigham City, Utah, for one year. This permission was extended for seven years. During this time, he also offered Mass for Catholic Children at the Navaho Indian School approximately 25 miles away and took care of a Spanish Mission located equally as distant from his rectory. Next, Father Harding served for two years as Pastor of St. James Parish in Vernal, Utah, where the Dinosaur National Park is located.
On June 5,1959, Father Harding was assigned to the Maryknoll Promotion House in Denver, Colorado, where he served for ten years. On September 1, 1969, he was enrolled in the Special Society Unit and moved to Maryknoll Residence, Los Altos, California. Due to the severity of his health condition, Father Harding moved to St. Teresa’s Residence at Maryknoll, New York, in February 1993.
While on Development work in Denver, Fr. Harding was known to be one who covered remote areas, making and covering Church dates and making friends with many priests of the area by helping out in their parishes. During his time in various parishes in the Salt Lake City Diocese, he carried on his work with a missionary flavor, promoting Maryknoll and foreign mission work among the parishioners and the boys and girls clubs that he had founded.
Wake Services were held on July 31st at St. Teresa’s Residence Chapel at 7:00 p.m. and at the Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll Center, New York, at 7:30 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated the following day in Queen of Apostles Chapel at 11:30 a.m. The Principal Celebrant and Homilist was Father Harding’s nephew, Father Joseph Cunningham. Interment followed at Maryknoll Cemetery.