By Bill Forry
Two of Dorchester's most storied and vibrant
Catholic parishes have new leadership this month.
Rev. Sean Connor, a 42 year-old former police
officer who became a priest at age 35, has taken
charge at Neponset Avenue's St. Ann parish. And in
Lower Mills, Fr. Vincent Daily, 47, who began his
priestly career as a curate at St. Gregory's in
1990, has succeeded the man who was his first
pastor, Monsignor Paul Ryan.
pastors begin their duties at a pivotal moment in
the neighborhood's parochial history. A new,
central grammar school system - Pope John Paul II
Academy - will be launched this fall at five
existing school campuses, including Lower Mills and
Neponset Ave. Dorchester pastors will no longer
have direct responsibility for any of the grammar
schools, which will be run centrally by a new
administrative office. Put another way, the pastors
will no longer have to agonize each year over how
to keep their parish school from closing in the
face of dropping enrollment or deferred
At right: Rev. Sean M.
"The [St. Ann] school couldn't have
survived another year," says Fr. Sean Connor. "The
academy is going to feed our parishes for the next
100 years. It's an exciting time. We have to all
work together. We're not here to rule over people.
We're here to serve them and give the best we
Both Connor and Daily - like their counterparts
at neighboring parishes - will continue to serve as
spiritual leaders for the school community. On
Friday, Fr. Daily helped to preside over a year-end
Mass at St. Gregory's Gymnasium, where future Pope
John Paul II students received prizes and
scholarship money for their achievements over the
last year. Still, it's clear that the academy
system will free men like Connor and Daily up to
focus more on the broader needs of the whole
Connor, who also serves as the chaplain for the
Boston Police Department, refers to it as
"spiritual traffic control."
"Dozens of people call every day and many of
them just ask me to just pray with them on the
phone," said Connor. "It's easy, but just like with
road traffic, it should only be done by trained
professionals. I'm not in favor of flagmen!"
Connor, who grew up in Marshfield, can trace his
roots directly to St. Ann parish. His grandparents,
emigrants from Ireland's County Galway, settled in
the Neponset parish nearly 100 years ago and he
spent some of his childhood days visiting at their
Pope's Hill home.
Connor describes himself as a "seasoned" - as
opposed to a "delayed" - vocation. He worked for 15
years as a police officer in Marshfield before he
finally awoke to his real calling, which he says he
first recognized during Pope John Paul II's visit
to Boston in 1979. Connor's course changed
dramatically when his father, a longtime Milton
police officer, died in 1981 when he was just 17
"I got toughened and angry and I decided to
become a cop and save the world. Little did I know
that it had already been saved. It took me 15 years
to understand that," Connor says.
His police training proved to be an asset. Just
a year after his ordination, Connor was plucked
from a Weymouth parish to serve as a "delegate" -
or special assistant - to Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Among his assignments over the last six years has
been to direct church investigations into
allegations of abuse by priests within the
Archdiocese and to work with families who had been
The work has affected Connor deeply. In an
interview, Connor extends a personal apology to the
parish, which was once home to a "bad priest who
hurt a lot of people." Connor says he knows some of
the victims and hopes to work with them during his
"The heroes of this have been the victims who
spoke up here," said Connor. "This has been a dark
time in our society's history and in the church's
history. But it's also been a graced time, when
people who had held these dark secrets came
Connor was also greatly influenced by his chief
mentor, the late Monsignor Bill Francis, former
pastor of Holy Family Parish in Dorchester's Dudley
triangle area. Connor was a frequent help to
Francis - and to Sr. Rita Brereton, who helped
Francis to run the parish. Connor assisted Francis
- who was also the BPD chaplain - nearly every day
during his final two years of life.
"I think of Bill and Rita all of the time and
about how much they loved God's people," says
Connor. "It's a part of why I wanted to come here.
Both (Fr. Daily) and I begged to come to
Dorchester. I lobbied for it, because these are my
kind of people. It fits."
a 47 year-old Belmont native, can track his local
roots back even further than Connor. One of Daily's
grandparents is descended from the Vose family of
Lower Mills, which lived on the Milton side of the
river in the late 17th century.
Like Connor, though, most of Daily's clan is
derived from the west of Ireland. And his relatives
have included three Catholic bishops, including his
father's brother&emdash;Bishop Thomas Daily
&emdash; who was the bishop of Brooklyn, NY. His
mother's brother was Bishop Ed O'Leary from
At right: Rev. Vincent
Daily's most celebrated relative locally is his
sister Connie, whom most Catholics of a certain age
know as Daily's altar server on the televised
Masses which Daily frequently celebrates on the
Archdiocese's cable station. Daily's older sister,
Eileen, is a professor of Theology at Loyola
University in Chicago.
A die-hard hockey fan and a veteran of several
Greater Boston parishes, Daily has also served as
the diocese's spiritual director at the Chancery in
Brighton. He spent four years in Rome earning a
doctorate in Theology and is an expert in the life
of the American worker's rights activist and
theologian Dorothy Day, who is presently being
considered for sainthood.
Coming back to Dorchester to lead St. Gregory's
- his first job as a pastor - is an opportunity
that Daily has prayed for.
"I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to be a
parish priest," Daily says. "Monsignor Ryan was a
mentor to me. He was 110 percent dedicated to the
parish. He had his eyes on nothing else.
"The appointment [as pastor] is six
years, but if I had an opportunity, I wouldn't mind
taking 27 [years] like the monsignor,"
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