PORTLAND – The Very Rev. Lawrence Joseph Conley, V.F., 72, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland for 45 years, died peacefully Friday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2012, at Mercy Hospital from complications of a recent illness, with his brother priests at his side. He was born Aug. 14, 1940, son and only child of Lawrence Conley of Galway, Ireland, and Delia Cunningham of County Mayo, Ireland.
He grew up in Portland and attended St. Dominic’s Grammar School and Cheverus High School. He graduated from St. Francis College, now University of New England, in 1962, and then entered St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, Mass., to prepare for the priesthood. Father Conley was ordained a priest on May 20, 1967, by Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Portland, and was appointed associate pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Westbrook. Subsequently, Father also served as associate pastor at St. Patrick’s Parish, Portland; St. Joseph’s Parish, Lewiston; and Sacred Heart Parish, Portland. In 1980, Father Conley was named pastor of St. Christopher’s Parish, Peaks Island. Two years later, Father was appointed the diocesan director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Portland as well as pastor of Our Lady of Wisdom Parish, Orono, and served in this capacity until 1987 when he was named pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Biddeford. Father Conley then served as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Norway, from 1996 until 2000, and pastor of St. Anne Parish, Gorham, for the next 10 years until his “retirement” in 2010. Father Conley has served the Diocese of Portland in many posts throughout his years as a priest. These included membership on Diocesan Liturgical Commission where he served as its chairperson for three terms. He was a member of Diocesan Music Commission and also served as its chairperson. He was also a member of Diocesan Personnel Board. Father Conley served two terms as a dean for the Diocese of Portland. In 1980, Father Conley was named diocesan moderator of Maine Council of Catholic Women and also served a term as the province moderator for Boston Province of the Council of Catholic Women, and most notably, served two terms as the national chairman of diocesan moderators of the Council of Catholic Women in the U.S. and was a four-year member of the executive board of National Council of Catholic Women in the U.S. Upon retirement in August 2010, Father Larry took up residence in Cathedral rectory and joined the pastoral team of priests serving the Portland area parishes of Cathedral, St. Peter, St. Louis, Sacred Heart/St. Dominic and St. Christopher – Peaks Island. Father Larry enjoyed a very active “retirement,” and continued to preside at multiple Sunday and weekday Masses at the five parishes, hear confessions every Saturday, and offer pastoral care to parishioners. Having spent so much of his life and ministry in the Portland area, many parishioners knew him well, and so Father Larry was frequently requested to preside at a number of funeral Masses during these past two years of his retirement. He also took a great interest in helping to mentor seminarians. Last year, upon the recommendation of his fellow priests, Bishop Richard Malone appointed Father Conley as the Vicar Forane for Vicariate IV. This was a role that Father assumed with great dedication and vigor. Father was recently invested in Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and was a fourth degree member of Knights of Columbus. Father Larry will be fondly remembered in the hearts of his former parishioners, friends and fellow priests for his kindness, generosity, compassion and his deep passion for exercising his priestly ministry. He loved everything about Christmas – no one celebrated the birth of the Lord more fervently than Father Larry. Father’s “Christmas Village” is legendary. And being so proud of his rich Irish heritage, Father Larry also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with zeal and great joy. He looked forward to getting together with his old childhood friends at Dimillo’s Restaurant every Sunday evening, and was instrumental in planning regular gatherings of the clergy because he so enjoyed and appreciated opportunities for fellowship with his brother priests. Father prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at the Cathedral rectory for his priest friends last week just as he has been doing for a number of years past. Father Conley faced these last days and made some personal, end-of-life decisions with great clarity of mind, as well as with admirable courage, profound faith, and genuine hope in the Lord.
Visitation will be held 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Sacred Heart/St. Dominic’s Church, corner of Mellen and Sherman streets, Portland. A reception of the body and Liturgy of the Hours will be held 4 p.m. Monday at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 307 Congress St., Portland. The Very Rev. Louis Phillips, rector of the Cathedral will preside. Father Conley will lie in state 4:30-8 p.m. at the Cathedral. A concelebrated Mass of Christian burial will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Cathedral with the Most Rev. Joseph Gerry, O.S.B., as principal celebrant. Very Rev. John Skehan will be the homilist. In lieu of flowers, donations in Father Conley’s memory are suggested to Diocesan and Priest Benefit Plan, 510 Ocean Ave., Portland, ME 04103; or Sisters of Mercy, 966 Riverside St., Portland, ME 04103.
Arrangements are under the care of Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home, 172 State St., Portland. Online condolences may be expressed at www.ctcrawford.com.