Father Bernard R. Garrity, MM

Born: January 1, 1920
Ordained: June 15, 1947
Died: January 23, 2006

Father Bernard Garrity died on January 23, 2006 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was 86 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 58 years.

Bernard Richard Garrity, one of ten children, was born on January 1, 1920, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, son of Michael and Ann Garrity. He attended St. Rose grade school, graduated from Chelsea Public High School, and studied at Boston College for three years before entering Maryknoll at the Maryknoll Apostolic College (Venard) in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, in September 1940.

After ordination at Maryknoll, New York, on June 15, 1947, Father Garrity was assigned with two of his classmates to Bolivia. The other two were assigned to work in dioceses, while Father Garrity went to work in the Maryknoll Mission of the Pando Vicariate. The Pando is a vast area of tropical jungle in northern Bolivia. There he worked in different ministries, in particular the river apostolate. He made long trips ministering to the thousands of people who earned their living gathering rubber and nuts in small, remote river settlements. During month-long trips by houseboat, he often covered distances of 1,500 miles along the treacherous jungle rivers to visit his parishioners.

In 1962 Father Garrity was assigned as pastor in the historically important town of Cachuela Esperanza. Later he was named pastor of the capital of the Pando department, Cobija, where he worked for several years. He then moved to Riberalta, where he worked in the different schools of the town. He developed a communication program with a private radio service that proved to be the forerunner of Radio San Miguel, the radio station run by the Vicariate of Pando. He pioneered a teaching method for broadcasting literacy lessons on radio to the isolated jungle communities, developing special texts and charts for his listeners’ use. In 1968 he received approval and praise from Bolivia’s Ministry of Education for his booklet, “Pintar con Ana”, geared to teaching literacy to the people under his care. He also did live broadcasts of local sports activities and folksy news reports.

In the 1970s he served as Superior of the Society House in La Paz, after which he was assigned to the San Roque Parish in Santa Cruz. Also in the 1970s, he began publication of his catechism, Catechism of Preparation for First Communion. This catechism was a rosary instruction pamphlet and devotional book that included explanations of the Gospels, was designed for adults as well as children and was used by priests, religious and public school teachers. For the next twenty years, he continued revising and distributing his catechism. In 1975 he was assigned to the San Roque in Santa Cruz. There he continued parish work, but paid particular attention to the dispersed people of the Pando, who had moved in large number to Santa Cruz to find work. He remained in San Roque until the parish was turned over the Archdiocese in 1998. At that time, Father Garrity returned to the United States, with residence in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was assigned to the Retirement Community in April 1999.

Wake services were held at 4:00 p.m. at Frank A. Welsh & Son Funeral Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts on January 26, 2006. The Funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Church in Chelsea at 11:00 a.m. on January 27, 2006. Burial followed in Holy Cross Cemetery, Malden, MA. A Memorial Mass was subsequently held at Maryknoll, New York.