Biographies

Father James J. Morrissey, MM

Born: December 2, 1926
Ordained: June 12, 1954
Died: July 4, 1982

Father James J. (Moe) Morrissey (Africa) died in the hospital of Deerfield, Massachusetts, July 4, 1982. Jim was covering a weekend church assignment in Deerfield. His health and spirit were good through the Saturday evening Mass which he offered, and into the late evening in the company of the parish priest.

Father Morrissey was born the oldest of two sons to Mary H. Ryan and John J. Morrissey, on December 2, 1926, in Boston, Massachusetts. After attending Cheverus Grammar School in Jamaica Plain and Boston High School for three years, Jim entered Maryknoll at the Venard in 1944. During his seminary career Jim developed from a poor student, who was advanced because of his generosity, hard work, and piety, to an outstanding student. Indeed, when he was ordained on June 12, 1954, he was first assigned to higher studies before being designated for the work of Maryknoll in Africa.

Essentially his mission career was Tanzania. Even when assigned for three years to the staff of Hingham and Glen Ellyn, one superior noted Jim’s constant desire to return to his mission overseas. Nevertheless, Jim developed his outgoing, decisive nature, found so attractive to students and peers, with advanced courses in psychology, counseling, and clinical-pastoral training. He continued his personal and professional development in these areas until his death.

From 1972 to 1978, Father Morrissey served as Regional Superior in Africa. The judgment of Jim during his term as Regional was succinctly stated: “A good man and missioner, with good sense, good insight, good experience and good humor.” He was the wise man of Proverbs 15:15: “for the joyous heart it is festival time always.”

The wake was held Tuesday, July 6, at the Robert Lawler Funeral Home in West Roxbury. Fr. Phil Wallace conducted a funeral Mass in Brookline on July 7 at the Infant of Jesus Church where Jim helped and his brother Ed plays the organ. That same evening another wake took place at Maryknoll, conducted by Fr. Thomas Kirchmyer. The funeral Mass was the following day with Fr. William Madden as Principal Celebrant and Fr. Edward Killackey as Homilist. Burial was at Maryknoll Cemetery, Fr. John Halbert conducting.

Essentially both shy and gifted, Jim tended earlier to mask his talent in humor, uncertain as he was of himself. In struggling with sickness he found himself. The sense of humor remained, of course, but as joy, a pervading, peaceful confidence in himself as one blessed by God. On the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary of priesthood in 1979, he said: “My life and my happiness is no doubt made possible by the grace of God and the full support of many friends at home.” God has called him; his mission journey is finished. “We shall be carrying the Gospel to places far beyond you… not boasting of the work already done.” (2 Cor. 10:16.)