On June 11, Father Daniel G. Cahill and more than 40 friends and family members traveled to Killarney to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. The way he sees it, he had come full circle, returning to Ireland, his native homeland and birthplace of his vocation.
PHOTO GALLERY-Father Daniel Cahill-50th Anniversary
Born in 1948 in Killarney, he was the third of five children of Jeremiah and Elizabeth Cahill, who created a Catholic home, where, he said, “Church, God and prayer all went hand in hand.”
Father Cahill distributes Holy Communion during Mass in St. Paul Church, Princeton. He considers the growth of the diaconate vocation and lay participation in the Church “a blessing.” Hal Brown photo
Every evening his parents recited the Rosary with their children, and the family received the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. Every Sunday the family attended Mass, where young Daniel served as an altar boy.
At age 18, “feeling drawn to that way of life,” he decided to enter the seminary after graduating high school. He entered the University College Dublin and All Hallows College. The seminary, All Hallows College, was one of five in Ireland associated with the Diocese of Trenton, where he would minister after his ordination.
As a seminarian, he spent the summer of 1971 in New Jersey, working as a landscaper and getting used to life in the towns within the Diocese, making some friends and developing a good feeling for America. He recalled, “I felt it was meant to be.”
In 1973 the newly-ordained priest was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, where he remained for six years. His next assignment took him to St. Anthony Parish (now part of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish), Hamilton, where he served as chaplain, taught religion and Gaelic, and, for 10 years, coached golf and soccer at McCorristin Catholic High School — now Trenton Catholic Academy. In 1989, he was appointed pastor of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, where he remained for six years. He was named pastor of St. Ann Parish, Keansburg, where he ministered for 23 years before retiring in 2018.
Reflecting on his 50 years of priesthood, Father Cahill said his greatest joy was giving “spiritual uplift to people in the pews so they leave Mass having made meaningful connection with God. Hopefully, my words inspired them in their daily lives.”
He said he treasured his role in the sacramental lives of his parishioners and was sensitive to the influence he had in their lives.
“It’s important how a priest carries himself in the sacramental life of the Church. In the priesthood, you deal with peoples’ happiness and sadness and help them deal with that,” said Father Cahill. “There is joy when couples exchange their love before God at the altar or when their children are baptized. At funerals, you help them deal with their grief.”
Father Cahill said retirement has endowed him with two gifts — freedom and time to minister to people without having the responsibilities of running a parish, and the fellowship and support he receives from his fellow residents at Villa Vianney in Lawrenceville, the diocesan home for retired priests.
Of his current assignment as regular weekend assistant in St. Paul Parish, Princeton, he said, “Celebrating weekday and Sunday Mass is my first and foremost joy.” He added that he frequently celebrates funeral Masses in St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown. He still presides over weddings, Baptisms and funerals upon request.
“I love Villa Vianney,” he said. “I love the camaraderie and wonderful support system among us. It’s inspiring. We’re all still committed to what we did at our parishes. Most of us here are still helping in parishes. Thank God I’m healthy to still help in ministry.”
The joy he experiences as a retired priest makes him concerned for his brothers who remain leading parishes with little or no assistance.
“My heart goes out to priests who don’t have the number of priests I had to help when I was young,” he said, then spoke with optimism about the future of the Church.
“There’s a lot of positive growth in the Church and strength going forward,” he said. “The diaconate is growing. As a pastor, I’ve had many deacons, and all of them have been a blessing. The growth of lay participation has been a blessing.”
Though the Church has had ups and downs in its history, Father Cahill maintains that it has “survived and will continue to do that. We will never lose sight of the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”