Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Campion_1436Father Campion and the Cavaliere family, from left, Peter, Alex, mom Mary and dad Carl.

WETHERSFIELD – In a celebration rich with emotion, parishioners filled Corpus Christi Church to say good-bye to their beloved pastor of 28 years, Father Thomas B. Campion, 84, during a Mass on Dec. 11 at which Archbishop Henry J. Mansell was the principal celebrant.

While every parishioner had a special story or memory about the priest with the big smile, warm hug and engaging personality, it was Archbishop Mansell who focused attention on the great "respect, admiration and affection" held for the retiring priest.

Offering highlights from Father Campion’s nearly 60 years as a priest, Archbishop Mansell drew thunderous applause and a standing ovation following remarks during which he praised him for being someone who "really is typecast to be a priest."

"Father Campion has been a tremendous priest for so many years," he said, "and we say thanks from the bottom of our hearts for all he means to so many of us."

Born in West Hartford, Father Campion was a standout high school athlete and sports enthusiast, who loved playing baseball and was offered an opportunity to sign by the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers. However, after turning down both offers, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield in 1948.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1952 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in West Hartford, he served for 27 years at St. Thomas Seminary (1953-80) as a teacher and director of athletics, as well as the coach of the baseball and basketball teams. Before arriving at Corpus Christi in 1983, he served at St. Paul Parish in West Haven and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Torrington.

Many priests currently serving in the Archdiocese of Hartford were influenced or formed by Father Campion during his years at the seminary.

"In those years, he had a profound impact on young men who were preparing for the priesthood," said Archbishop Mansell about Father Campion’s years at St. Thomas Seminary. "Many priests in the Archdiocese have been the recipients of his example and encouragement."

Father Campion drew smiles during his remarks when he reminisced about a particularly high-scoring basketball game that was played years ago between his team from the seminary and a New York team playing at Cardinal Hayes High School that included a player who would become the current archbishop of Hartford, who alone scored 20 points.

Then, turning to his congregation, Father Campion fought back tears as he thanked parishioners "who made this such a memorable Mass for me."

"I’ve been blessed by 28 years here," he said, "and by you who made this such a blessing for me."

The celebration, which included a three-hour reception following Mass, was co-hosted by parishioners of Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart Parish, which was linked with Corpus Christi in 1995, as well as the Korean Catholic Community. A video of Father Campion from his ordination to the present was also shown.

"This is a wonderful tribute to an incredible man," said Coleen Antico, director of development for Corpus Christi School. The school previously had celebrated its 50th anniversary and paid tribute to Father Campion’s 28-year legacy with a dinner-dance at the Bond Hotel in Hartford, a Mass followed by breakfast at the school, and a celebration in November at the school.

The dinner-dance raised more than $55,000, which will be used for a new gymnasium floor and bleacher section for what will be called Father Campion Court. The school plans to dedicate it next fall.