My Grandmother’s nephew, Fr. Thomas Craven, and her brother-in-law, Fr. Joseph McDonald, were both Catholic priests. They never met as far as I know, and Fr. McDonald died 12 years before Fr. Craven was ordained.
And yet both priests were noted for their efforts in opposing anti-Semitism.
Here is an excerpt from the obituary of Fr. Craven that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 13, 2004:
“In June, Msgr. Craven retired as pastor of St. Agnes at the dedication of a parish community center named in his honor. During his 17 year pastorate, he oversaw the expansion of the parish school, opened a day room in the rectory for the homeless, said Mass in Spanish for Hispanic parishioners, and established a rapport with Protestants and Jews.
“‘He was magnanimous and ecumenical in the things he wanted to do for the community,’ said Tom Chambers, former West Chester mayor and a parishioner. ‘He was not overbearing, but he would speak out on issues.’
“For more than 10 years Msgr. Craven distributed cards to his congregation to deliver to Jews during the High Holidays. One side of the card read Shanah Tovah, Hebrew for good year, and on the other side was a quote from Pope John XXIII asking Jews, blamed for the death of Jesus Christ, to ‘forgive us for the curse which we have unjustly placed on the name of the Jews.’
“In a 1998 interview, he said his father had taught him to fight anti Semitism when he was growing up in Williamstown, Pa.”
As noted in a previous post on this blog (Brothers in Faith, Part 1), Fr. McDonald also publicly supported the Jewish people.
I am extremely heartened by this similarity. These two priests, members of my family tree not related by blood, were united in their opposition to hatred and prejudice, and dedicated to the cause of brotherhood. I am struck by this discovery; it just makes me feel happy and proud.
The above picture shows Fr. Craven on the steps of St. Agnes Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania where he served as pastor. It accompanied the article, “Priests honored for century of service,” in the Daily Local News, West Chester, Pennsylvania, June 8, 1996.