Self Portrait


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.

4 thoughts on “Self Portrait

  1. I don’t know how he was in Westchester IN 86 when he married me in 1989 when he was at St Hugh parish in Phila. PA.

    • Hi Philip, thank you for your comments. I am glad that you found something of interest on my blog and that you knew Msgr. Craven. He touched a lot people during his life and it is nice to know he is fondly remembered.

      I checked the date of the bulletin referenced in this blog post and it is June 29, 1986. I have a bulletin from St. Hugh of Cluny in which Msgr. Craven gave a farewell message, and that is dated June 8, 1986; he mentioned that he had been assigned there for six years. I also have the program from his retirement ceremony from St. Agnes in West Chester and that gives the date of his arrival as 1986. Finally, his obituary in both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Catholic Standard and Times states that he became pastor of St. Agnes in 1986.

      Perhaps Msgr. Craven was visiting St. Hugh’s when you were married?

  2. So many fond memories and great life lessons learned from Monsignor Craven. I was a student at St. Agnes and he was close with our family as well

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