Bishop O'Connell and priests in attendance chant the "Salve Regina" as Father Morris' urn is brought forth from St. James Church.
Bishop O'Connell and priests in attendance chant the "Salve Regina" as Father Morris' urn is brought forth from St. James Church.

Trinitarian Father Thomas Morris, the pastor of Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing, who died suddenly Nov. 2, was remembered as being a priest with “the heart of a good shepherd.” 

“We all bid a prayerful farewell to someone we all loved,” Trinitarian Father James Day said in the homily he preached during the Nov. 7 Mass of Christian Burial that was celebrated for his friend and fellow Trinitarian confrere.  

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., was principal celebrant of the Mass. Concelebrating priests included several from the Trenton Diocese – Msgr. Thomas Mullelly, episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life and director of seminarians; Father Michael Hall, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square, and director of the diocesan Office of Worship, and Father John Butler, pastor of St. Michael Parish, West End – as well as priests from Father Morris' community, the Order of the Most Holy Trinity, and members  of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.  

“Heartbreak doesn’t capture the moment,” Bishop O’Connell said, as he looked upon the congregation who had come to pay their last respects. Along with members of Father Morris’ family, the congregants largely represented the two parishes where Father Morris had served as pastor – St. Ann Parish, Bristol, Pa., and Incarnation-St. James Parish.  

“As we come together to say goodbye to a wonderful, good priest, pastor, brother, family member and friend, I invite you to pray with me to almighty God that he might receive his soul,” Bishop O’Connell said. 

In his homily, Father Day spent time reflecting on highlights of Father Morris’ life and priestly ministry. 

“Whenever we ask the Catholic faithful about the qualities they would expect to be visible of a good and holy priest, there are many different answers,” Father Day said, noting that people indicate they want someone who is a good leader, organized, articulate, open to suggestion and criticisms, and wants to continue educating himself in his ministry. 

And while these are important answers, “once we get beyond these very broad human qualities, it quickly becomes clear that a priest in the Catholic Church is all that and so much more,” said Father Day, recalling that he first encountered Father Morris in 1978. Then-Brother Tom had just entered the Trinitarian’s house of formation in Hyattsville, Md., and Father Day was the formation director. 

“All of us – on both sides of this altar rail – are looking for priests who are holy men who believe in prayer and the celebration of Sacraments with reverence and care,” Father Day said.

“We want connected men who are willing to sit and listen and console, compassionate men who understand the suffering first in their own life and then in the lives of others. We always want a skillful preacher who can sift through all the superfluous words and thoughts that come out of other people’s minds and mouths and then be able to zero in on the core message that we are communicating or that the Church is proclaiming. 

“I believe we saw all of that and more in the life and ministry of Trinitarian Father Thomas Morris,” said Father Day.  

Father Day spoke on a number of Father Morris’ characteristics, including his ability to identify with and minister to the suffering “because he knew about personal suffering.”

Father Morris battled health concerns during his life, including diabetes – which resulted in him having his leg amputated and needing to wear a prosthesis.

“We had a man in our midst who showed us the power of using our human skills and joining them to the grace of Jesus to bring about great things for the Church and the [Trinitarian] order,” Father Day said.

At the end of Mass, Trinitarian Father Albert Anuszewski, the provincial for the Trinitarians, extended appreciation to the many people who were sources of encouragement to Father Morris, including Bishop O’Connell. Noting that the Bishop and Father Morris shared similar health matters, Father Anuszewski said, “You encouraged him and he encouraged you.”

To Father Morris’ family, Father Anuszewski said, “Thank you for loving him and helping him to be the priest he was.” 

Father Anuszewski concluded his remarks by presenting Father Morris’ sister with the Trinitarian cross that her brother always wore around his neck.