By Karen Corpora
Father Michael A. Driscoll was remembered as a quiet, gentle and loving priest during his May 1 funeral Mass in St. Patrick Church, Belvidere.
Addressing Father Driscoll’s family and former parishioners, Bishop James F. Checchio, who celebrated at the Mass, said, “I’m grateful for the love Father Mike had for his people and I thank God for the gift of his life and priestly ministry as we send him back to God.”
Father Driscoll was named pastor of St. Patrick Parish in August, 1979, and served there until his retirement in 2002. Because of his many years of service, the parish center is named in his honor. He was laid to rest in the parish cemetery.
In his homily, Msgr. Seamus F. Brennan, pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, Somerville, spoke of his friendship with Father Driscoll. The two, who were both natives of Ireland, met in the seminary. Msgr. Brennan remembered attending Father Driscoll’s ordination in 1968. “I can tell you he was one very fine man and a very fine priest.”
He noted that Father Driscoll was a pastor after God’s heart and loved the priesthood, and reminded those present that he had given 24 years of his life to St. Patrick’s, serving most of his active priestly ministry there. “He followed the example of the Good Shepherd in many ways, laying down his life for his flock.”
“Father Driscoll loved the Eucharist and recognized that it was the source and summit of his priesthood, of the Church and of everything that he was,” Msgr. Brennan added. “Nothing would deter him from becoming a priest once he heard the call.” The priesthood was a late vocation for Father Driscoll, having become a priest at the age of 40. “He has left us a great legacy of faith and devotion. He has served his God, his priesthood, and this diocese generously and faithfully in the likeness of the good shepherd. Father Mike understood that God called him to a holy life, to the priesthood, and he called him to be a saint.”
The evening before the funeral Mass, Father John J. Barbella, dean of Warren County Deanery, presided at the Mass of Commemoration for Father Driscoll. “I have known Father Mike for many years. He was a very kind and very gentle man of tremendous faith. This was not a show or pretentious he just quietly did his job day after day,” Father Barbella said.
In his homily, Father Richard M. Rusk, who followed Father Driscoll as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, said, “I was privileged to be here those years right after he retired and to receive the witness of the faithful people of God. It was a very powerful lesson and a great encouragement.”
Noting that it was his first pastorate, he said, “The experiences and struggles of being a pastor for the first time were made easy because of Father Mike. We as pastors are built on the shoulders of those who go before us.”
He concluded by saying, “Father Mike, I thank you for your service here at St. Patrick’s for what you’ve done and how you’ve lived in humble loving service. It never makes the papers but it is the most powerful reality in the universe and it was done well by Father Mike.”
Father Driscoll was born in Dunmanus, County Cork, Ireland. He was the son of the late Michael and Hannah O'Driscoll. He received his early education and started working in farming in West Cork. Leaving Ireland in the late 1940s, he lived and worked in England and Canada. He immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s and after working for a few years in various jobs, he discerned a call to the priesthood.
In 1960, he began his theological studies in County Waterford, Ireland, at Mount Mellerary College and completed his studies at St. John’s Seminary.
He was ordained to the priesthood June 9, 1968, in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Waterford, by Bishop Michael Russell, in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. After ordination, he returned to the United States and began his ministry in the Diocese of Trenton, where he served as parochial vicar and hospital chaplain in St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, from 1968 to 1973. He then moved to St. Paul Parish (now part of St. Katharine Drexel Parish), Burlington, where he served from 1973 to 1976, and then at St. Francis of Assisi Parish (now Cathedral), Metuchen, from 1976 to 1979.
Father Driscoll served as dean of Morris Canal from 1985 to1989, and ministered at the Warren County Prison, Belvidere. In 2000, at age 72, Father Driscoll earned a Master of Arts degree in pastoral ministry at Caldwell College.
After he retired, Father Driscoll lived in Stockertown, Pa.; St. Francis Residential Community, Denville; and more recently, Care One Cupola.
Karen Corpora is a correspondent with The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Metuchen Diocese.