Thomas Patrick Craven, my first cousin once removed, was born on March 27, 1928 and died on February 9, 2004. He was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1956. In 1982, he was named a Monsignor. I knew him as Fr. Tom.
Fr. Tom was assigned as pastor of St. Agnes Parish in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1986. He wrote a column for the weekly Sunday bulletin, and in his first one for St. Agnes, dated June 29, 1986, he introduced himself to his new parishioners:
I hope we will soon get to know each other well and be better off for it. I must confess I miss the parish and people I came from, but not so much that it blinds me to the obvious goodness of where I am. God has made all of us upright and He will see that we share our best if we want to, and I surely do want to.
Maybe some vital statistics will help. I was born several years ago in Williamstown, Pa., one of the most westerly towns in the hard coal regions. I think some of my grandparents were baptized by St. John Neumann. I am very proud of where I come from and of my parents, both of whom I buried in Williamstown this past April. God rest them. I am 6’3″. I sometimes talk too much, obviously. I have been here before, from November of 1968 to early June of 1969. I liked it. I speak Spanish fairly well, and more than occasionally fracture the Queen’s English.
In my thirty years as a priest I have always had Hispanic parishioners and friends. I like that, too. North Philadelphia and Kensington have been my home for almost twenty-four years. I revere those places as equally excellent corners of God’s creation.
I have twenty-two buttons down the front of my cassock. (So far I haven’s lost any.) They are red now, but they used to be black. The reason for the change is anyone’s guess. I am happy being a priest although my humors don’t always reflect it, and I am glad to be a priest here in the heart of Chester County.
Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I do for fun. I answered “the Church.” With all its ups and downs I love it. I hope you do, too. I have a size 12 foot which once in a while I find firmly lodged in my mouth. I am sure you will understand. It is a common fault maybe even among some of you. My favorite vegetable is the potato, obviously, and pasta has done me in more than once. I don’t like television. I do like Doonesbury, about 60 per cent of the time. I don’t care much for gentrification (it’s a size 12D), and pandiculators are my most disturbing weekly distraction.
The picture above accompanied his column, which was called, “From the Second Floor Front.” I had to look up the meaning of the word “pandiculators.” It means stretches of the body and extremities when drowsy, bored, or tired.