Former EMMC chaplain dies at 75

Posted Dec. 23, 2009, at 9:47 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:48 a.m.
The Rev. John Austin, new chaplain at Eastern Maine Medical Center, removes the crucifix from the wall of the medical center chapel after a Tuesday afternoon Mass. The chapel is used by other denominations, so religious icons related to specific faiths are removed after services.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BOB DELONG
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The Rev. John Austin, new chaplain at Eastern Maine Medical Center, removes the crucifix from the wall of the medical center chapel after a Tuesday afternoon Mass. The chapel is used by other denominations, so religious icons related to specific faiths are removed after services. BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY BOB DELONG

BANGOR, Maine — A New York native who was inspired to become a priest after a visit to Acadia National Park has died.

The Rev. John Joseph Austin, 75, of Bangor died Monday night after a short illness.

Austin was born in 1934 on Staten Island, N.Y. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years and taught special education in Harlem, N.Y., for 25 years.

It was after a visit to the park in 1994 on Mount Desert Island and attending Mass at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Bar Harbor that Austin mailed a postcard to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, requesting information.

He was ordained a priest in 1997 and served for more than seven years as chaplain at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

“We have a real jewel in him,” the Rev. Rex Garrett, head of chaplancy services at Eastern Maine Medical Center, said of Austin in 1999. “Father Austin really cares about people and is a very compassionate person. He also is a spiritual person and others sense that about him.”

Austin succeeded the Rev. Robert Sullivan, who left EMMC when he was 87 after serving as the Catholic chaplain there for 23 years.

“A hospital is a special ground for God,” Austin said in a Jan. 1, 2000, Bangor Daily News article. “People come here with no property, no car, and no possessions really. It is just you. God gets our attention here.”

Austin lived with other priests in the rectory at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor until his retirement to Sunbury Village two years ago.

He used to sit at the back of the York Street church to listen to the chamber choir rehearse. That is how Monique Bouchard of Old Town, a former singer in the choir, met him.

“I think Father John was one of the most constantly calm and ever-cheerful people I’ve ever met,” she said Wednesday. “No matter what was happening with him in terms of his life, his health or the world, he always had a smile and it was so reflective of his faith.

“There was nothing that could possibly toss him,” he said. “It was always calm seas. And, I guess, for me, that was such reflection of the true faith — whatever’s happening here is just not such a big deal.”

Bouchard said that her 2½-year-old son Jesse Austin Bouchard was named in the priest’s honor.

Austin is survived by his sisters and brothers, Anne Mott, Jean Austin, Peter Austin and Paul Austin, seven nieces and nephews, 13 great nieces and nephews and one more on the way and cousins.

Funeral rites will be conducted at St. John Catholic Church, 207 York St., Bangor with the Reception of the Body at 3 p.m. Sunday, followed by the wake, and an evening prayer at 6 p.m.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday. Interment will be in the spring at St. Thomas Cemetery in Palmer, Mass.

Gifts in his memory may be made to St. Joseph Healthcare, Maine Veterans Home or St. John Catholic Church, all in Bangor.

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