Fr. Paul Joseph Lennon

Fr. Lennon knew what it means to be Catholic right to the end

  • May 27, 2024

Even in his dying days, Fr. Paul Joseph Lennon continued to show his concern for the poor.

Michael Fullan, like Fr. Lennon a former executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto, met with Fr. Lennon regularly, seeing him last just after his 93rd birthday in April. Despite a declining physical state, Fullan noted that he was mentally “sharp as ever.” Despite being in late-stage palliative care, Fr. Lennon was adamant in continuing to discuss with Fullan how Catholics are called to look after others.

“He pulled out Pope Francis' book and started to go on about a recurring theme that was dear to him for the 30 years that I knew him and that was about the poor and the Church being a field hospital. He spoke about the poor being a gift in our midst, not to be looked at as a burden, but to be embraced and responded to and to live in community with,” Fullan said.

 “He was hopeful that despite all the madness in the world, the Church will continue to do that because, as he said, that is Jesus' message to us.” 

Fr. Lennon, a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, died on May 8 at Houses of Providence in Scarborough. He was 93 years old. 

Fr. Lennon served throughout his life in numerous ways, perhaps most notably at Catholic Charities where he spent 17 years, four as executive director. He was ordained a priest in May of 1956 and spent 17 years as pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Oshawa. Fr. Lennon also spent four years as director of Serra House in Toronto with the task of guiding men who were considering the priesthood before returning to parish work later in his career.

Upon retiring in 2007, he remained active within the Catholic community. He participated in a panel discussion on “Aging & Spirituality” with the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute in 2015, one of the many ways he chose to continue engaging in religious affairs after retirement. 

Fullan also recalled Fr. Lennon never shying away from discussing his own mortality, instead using his condition as an example of what it means to be a Catholic right up to the very end. 

“He knew that he was coming to the end of his life and I remember in previous conversations he would say, ‘We (as Catholics) do not do death well.’ He would make me laugh by saying that you always hear in the obituaries that people passed away. He would say no one is passing, they are dying,” Fullan recalled. “That was something he said because he knew that death is not an end and that there is a sequel to this story and my gosh, it is a great one.” 

It would end up being the two friends’ last visit together. 

Fullan looked back on the life of a man who helped build the foundation on which he was able to structure his career. 

“This guy was the life of the party. He liked to get up and sing, do the soft shoe, dance with a cane and a top hat and just make you laugh. He was joyful, he had a good sense of humour,” Fullan said, remembering the many Christmases his family had spent with Fr. Lennon. “He wanted people to be a part of the Catholic faith not for his own sake but for the common good of everyone and that is who he was — he was nobody's fool.” 

A funeral service for Fr. Lennon was to be held May 30 at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Scarborough, one that his dear friend can count on as being a true celebration of life.

“In the end, Paul was a good man, a good friend and a good, holy priest. What else can I say about the guy? He is probably looking over saying ‘stop talking about me.’ ” 

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