Father Mark Crane
Father Mark Crane

As a former meteorologist, Father Mark Crane understands the need to know the coming weather patterns and changes of seasons. But when it comes to predicting anything else, such as what he would experience during his priesthood or now in retirement, he chooses to rely on his faith and follow the plan that God has for his life. 

Father Crane joined the distinguished list of the Diocese’s retired priests on the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 23. And while now living in his “favorite place on earth” – Wildwood – he takes with him a host of memories – receiving the call to priesthood later in life after being in the workforce; his love for decorating and music, and his 16 years of active priestly ministry, the past 12 of which he served as pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan. 

From the first day at seminary, the past 21 years have been an incredible challenge,” said Father Crane, who was born in May 1956 in Hackensack and raised in Paramus. “This incredible responsibility was something I put my heart into. God has been so good to me!” 

Having developed a fascination with the cycle of seasons, especially with winter storms and the formation of snow, sleet and freezing rain, Father Crane was in sixth grade when he decided he wanted to be a meteorologist. He pursued undergraduate studies in meteorology at Kean College (now Kean University), Union, and graduate studies at Rutgers University. 

In 1983, Father Crane went to live in Florida, where his family had moved, and for seven years he taught physics and earth science at Hillsboro Community College, Tampa. In 1990, he returned to New Jersey and began a job as a research scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton where he had the privilege of working with some of the top scientists in the world on climate change and global warming issues. 

While at GFDL, he became increasingly involved in Princeton’s St. Paul Parish, serving as a reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He also assisted with decorating the church for the Christmas and Easter seasons, which he described as a “great honor.” His interest in decorating, he said, evolved from his childhood when his parents would “go all out” decorating the house for Christmas. 

Father Crane’s service to the parish did not go unnoticed by Msgr. Walter Nolan, pastor at the time. It was most humbling, Father Crane shared, when Msgr. Nolan approached him about becoming a deacon. 

Father Crane described “several powerful experiences with the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit” that he had during his formation in the diaconate.  “That eventually resulted in my questioning why I was studying to be a deacon when, as an unmarried man, I could become a priest,” he recalled.  He entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood, Pa., in 2000, and was ordained a priest May 21, 2005 by Bishop John M. Smith. 

As a priest, Father Crane remained in Manalapan during the past 16 years, but he held various assignments in St. Thomas More Parish, including as parochial vicar, administrator after the parish was merged with Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Englishtown, and then as pastor. 

Father Crane speaks emphatically about his top priority of helping parishioners “to worship our Lord through dignified and beautiful liturgies in a beautiful church.” He reflected that this effort was aided by his interest in decorating and music.

“I’m not sure I ever reached my goal of having a perfect liturgy, but I think we came close a couple of times,” he said, recalling two liturgies – when the new altar was consecrated by Bishop Smith and when Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in 2018. 

Father Crane said it wasn’t until he was getting ready to retire that he learned something about his relationship with the faithful he served.

“What was most important to them were the little things I had said or done over the years that had a profound affect after the parish was merged with Our Lady of Mercy Parish, Englishtown, and then as pastor. 

Father Crane speaks emphatically about his top priority of helping parishioners “to worship our Lord through dignified and beautiful liturgies in a beautiful church.” He reflected that this effort was aided by his interest in decorating and music.

“I’m not sure I ever reached my goal of having a perfect liturgy, but I think we came close a couple of times,” he said, recalling two liturgies – when the new altar was consecrated by Bishop Smith and when Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany in 2018. 


Father Crane said it wasn’t until he was getting ready to retire that he learned something about his relationship with the faithful he served.

“What was most important to them were the little things I had said or done over the years that had a profound effect on their lives,” he said. “I had it all wrong. It was not the great liturgies but the quiet visit to someone in their home or hospital, or a few kind words that meant the most.” He added that while he did not have a retirement celebration because of the pandemic restrictions he was heartened to receive more than 200 cards and notes that contained “some of the most kind, heart-warming words I have ever read.”

Father Crane said that it’s his hope that his retirement can include celebrating Mass in any of the three nearby parish churches in the Wildwood area. It’s also his hope that the day will soon come when concerns related to the pandemic reach a point where more Catholics will feel comfortable to attend Mass in their parish churches.

The most important thing that was missing and continues be missed is the Eucharist, he said. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of everything we do as Catholics. I hope people can get back to Mass and receive the Eucharist, God’s greatest gift to us.”