16 November 2016

Columban Fr Bernard Toal RIP

Fr Bernard E. Toal
(17 October 1915 - 14 November 2016)
The greeting above was for his 100th birthday on 17 October 2015. He was the first Columban to reach that age.

Fr Bernard E. Toal died at St Elizabeth’s Manor, Rhode Island, on November 14, 2016.  Please remember him in your Masses and prayers. 

Fr Toal was born on 17 October 1915 in Gloucester, New Jersey, USA.  There he attended the local parish school. Thinking of becoming a missionary priest, he entered St Columban's Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, New York, for high school studies in 1931. After graduating in 1937, he entered the Columban Fathers spiritual formation program in Bristol, RI. Back in Silver Creek he studied Philosophy 1938-1940. He completed his theological studies in St Columbans, Nebraska, and was ordained a priest on 18 December 1943 at the Cathedral of St Joseph in Buffalo, NY.

A baptism in Ozamiz City

Because of World War II he did not immediately go to the missions but did parish work in California and Arizona. At the end of hostilities in 1945 he went to the Philippines where, in Ozamiz City, he taught in the parish high school.

In 1951 he returned home for vacation. He was then appointed as Spiritual Director and Bursar of the seminary in Bristol, RI. In 1957 he became Director of Probationers there, a position he held until going to Lima, Peru, in 1968.

Fr Toal (L) with Columban seminarians in Bristol, 1962-63

Fr Toal worked in Peru for eleven years and spent most of that time in the parish of 'The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary' in Reynoso, Callao. Before he left, he had just completed a new parish church and rectory and had built up a thriving parish community.

In Peru

Returning to the USA in April 1979 he was appointed assistant pastor in Blessed Sacrament Parish, Westminster, California. After seven years there he was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Then, in the summer of 1992, he was assigned to Immaculate Conception in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he served with Columban Fathers, Dennis O'Mara and Gerald Wilmsen.

In Fontana, CA

In 2001, Fr Toal was asked to move to Los Angeles while waiting for his assignment to St Mary’s Parish in Fontana, California.  He enjoyed serving at St Mary’s for almost ten years and was beloved by the parishioners. In the fall of 2011 he moved to the Columban House in Bristol, RI. In the last few years he suffered from declining health. He was cared for at St Elizabeth Manor in Bristol, where he remained cheerful and did not complain. He was 101 when he passed away. 

Fr Toal (R) 26 September 2015

Thanks to his gentle spirit and genuine interest in all those who crossed his path, Fr Toal touched the lives of a great number of people and maintained personal contact with many of them for several decades up until the end of his life.

100th Birthday Mass, 17 October 2015, with Fr Charles Lintz

Funeral Mass will take place at 10:30am on Friday, 18 November at St Columban’s Retirement Home (65 Ferry Rd, Bristol) in Rhode Island. After lunch, burial will take place at the cemetery of St Mary’s, Bristol.  May he Rest In Peace.

Thanks to Fr Timothy Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.

The great Russian-born American songwriter, Irving Berlin (1888 - 1989), like Fr Toal, lived to be 101. The year the latter was born Berlin wrote When I Leave the World Behind. This version, sung by Al Jolson, is from a radio broadcast in 1943, the year Fr Toal was ordained.

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