Father Daniel H. Cassidy

Rev. Daniel Hugh Cassidy, 88, active in Josephite community

Photo: Father Don and sister Eileen Cassidy in 1943.
The Rev. Daniel Hugh Cassidy, a retired Irish Roman Catholic priest well known in East Baltimore, died Tuesday (April 8, 2003) of heart and kidney failure at St. Joseph Medical Center. He was 88.

Father Cassidy, who divided his 50 years of active ministry almost exclusively between Maryland and Louisiana, had resided since 1993 at St. Joseph Manor, a Baltimore retirement home for Josephite priests and brothers.

Father Cassidy was born in Donegal, Ireland. His parents moved with him and his seven siblings to Boston when he was 7. By 1936, he had decided to become a priest and entered Mary Immaculate Novitiate in Newburgh, N.Y.

A year later, he was accepted at the St. Joseph Seminary in Washington, D.C., where for six years he studied philosophy, theology and the Josephite mission of serving African-American Catholics.

The Josephite community was started in England in 1866 to send missionaries to the United States to minister to African-Americans freed from slavery, especially the high concentrations of black Catholics in Maryland and Louisiana. The first four Josephite priests arrived in 1871 and established headquarters in Baltimore at St. Francis Xavier Church.

Steeped in the Josephite tradition, Father Cassidy was ordained as a priest May 29, 1943, and was immediately assigned to work at St. Francis Xavier’s new East Baltimore location at Caroline and Eager streets.

It was here the 29-year-old priest with the slight brogue made his first impression on the black community. Father Cassidy often walked along Caroline Street extending his help to anyone who needed it.

From 1943 through 1951, Father Cassidy ministered to the community and pushed for integrating Catholic schools. He helped start the first Catholic Students Interracial Council in 1945, and he integrated the Catholic Students Mission Crusade.

During his eight years in the parish, 890 people converted to Catholicism at St. Francis Xavier. Two of those converts were Clarence Du Burns, who in 1987 became Baltimore’s first black mayor, and Americus Roy, who in 1971 became the nation’s first African-American permanent Catholic deacon.

“He was a dynamo,” Mr. Roy of Baltimore’s St. Pius V Church said of Father Cassidy. “Even when he left for years, he could come back and never forget a name.”

Mr. Roy said Father Cassidy encouraged young men to play sports in a church hall at Eden and Ashland streets, casually explaining the Catholic faith afterward. When the games were over, the children piled into his car, and Father Cassidy drove each one home.

Aside from his community work, Father Cassidy was also well known for his skills at the piano and the organ — and, most notably, in the kitchen.

The Rev. Robert Kearns of Baltimore, superior general of the Josephite community, said priests came from all over the Baltimore region to enjoy Father Cassidy’s cooking on Sunday nights.

“He would bake a great ham that he would never serve without slices of pineapple,” Father Kearns said.

Father Cassidy’s influence extended into Baltimore County. Although he left in 1951 for Louisiana, his work in the county’s Turners Station neighborhood led to the establishment in 1956 of the Christ the King parish.

He returned to Baltimore in 1963 and served as the pastor of St. Veronica Church in Cherry Hill for nearly six years. He was again assigned to Louisiana in 1968, but 14 years later, at his request, he returned to St. Francis Xavier.

In 1984, he turned 70 and decided to move to Donegal. But he could not stay away from Baltimore, returning to the city on several occasions.

In 1993, a heart attack forced him to retire, and he did so at St. Joseph Manor, where he remained until his death.

Services were held Saturday at St. Francis Xavier.

Father Cassidy is survived by two sisters, Ita Downer of Yonkers, N.Y., and Eileen Cassidy of Framingham, Mass.

–Doug Donovan, Sun Staff, April 14, 2003
Copyright 2003, The Baltimore Sun

Fr. Cassidy to Say First Mass Sunday in Dorchester Church
Newspaper article from 1943

Rev. Daniel H. Cassidy, S.S.J., son of Mrs. Julia Cassidy and the late Francis Cassidy of 32 Athelwold S., Dorchester, will celebrate his first solemn public mass next Sunday morning at 11:30 in St. Leo’s Church, Esmond St., Dorchester. Assisting at the mass will be Rev. Francis L. Whearly, S.S.J., deacon; Rev. Francis A. Dynan, S.S.J., subdeacon; William Clancy, S.S.J., master of ceremonies. John Lennon, S.S.J. will be thurifer; Eugene McKenna, S.S.J., and Francis Cassidy, acolytes, and Benjamin Horton, S.S.J., soloist.

Rev. Arthur J. O’Leary, S.S.J., master of novices at the Mary Immaculate Novitiate in Newburg, N.Y., will preach the sermon. Seated in the sanctuary will be the pastor of the church, Rev. John Callahan, Rev. Thomas Conlon and Rev. John McCarthy.

The young priest was ordained at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. last Saturday as a member of the Society of St. Joseph, whose members labor among the Negroes in this country. He attended the Oliver Wendell Holmes School, English High, Boston College High School and Boston College. He made his novitiate with the Josephites in one year and completed his six years of seminary training at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Washington, D.C.

Fr. Cassidy is one of 12 ordained this golden jubilee year of the order. The society began half a century ago as an independent American institution in Baltimore with a mere handful of priests. During the years, the society has grown and spread until it now embraces 173 priests laboring on 111 missions from Boston to San Antonio, Tex.

After a short stay at home, Fr. Cassidy will return to Washington and await assignment to begin his active missionary work.

by “Miss Kathy”
from June 1993 during Father Don’s golden jubilee year

It was Father Don’s silver jubilee year when I was welcomed into the Cassidy family. Both in Boston and Baltimore, the sun shone brightly, and the weather was hot. On October 12, 1968 Father Don traveled from Louisiana to the Bronx to perform our wedding. We enjoyed the telegrams he sent from Mrs. Borax and the Debobidy Insurance Co. and were delighted with the Beleek vase Father carried back on the plane from Ireland as our wedding present.

Through the years Father has served as our link to Frank’s childhood and our three children and I will always enjoy hearing his anecdotes. Special favorites of mine are: Frank and cousin Marie’s first driving experience, the beach outings to Nantasket ending with pails of sand dumped in the closet, and the song, “It’s a Short Way to Mrs. Mitchell’s.”

Father Don’s holiday grab bags are unique. His thoughtfulness and sense of humor always prevail. Just check with sisters Eileen and Ita about their large collection of cats and dogs.

Thanks for it all.

by Mayor William Donald Schaefer, designating June 3, 1984, as “Father Daniel H. Cassidy Day” in Baltimore

Whereas, Father Daniel H. Cassidy, S.S.J., was ordained on May 29, 1943 and became Associate Pastor at Saint Francis Exavier Church at Caroline and Eager Streets from 1943 through 1951; and

Whereas, during the years of his Associate Pastorship at Saint Francis Xavier Church, Father Cassidy became well known to many young adults and was personally responsible for increasing the membership by bringing many converts into the Church; and

Whereas, Father Daniel H. Cassidy is a faithful servant of God and is a spiritual director in every sense of the word; and

Whereas, after an absence of many years, Father Daniel H. Cassidy returned home to Saint Francil Xavier Church in June, 1982 to the many parishioners who love and know him well.

Now therefore, I William Donald Schaefer, Mayor of the City of Baltimore, do hereby proclaim June 3, 1984 as “Father Daniel H. Cassidy Day” in Baltimore, and do urge all citizens to recognize and applaud the many spiritual and temporal contributions of this holy man of God to his congregation.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set by hand and caused the Great Seal of the City of Baltimore to be affixed this third day of June, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four.

Josephite Celebrates 50th Anniversary
by Frank J. Cassidy
Newspaper article from June 1993

BOSTON– Fifty years ago, Mass was celebrated in Latin, and the priests faced away from the congregation. Today they speak English and face the congregation. Many changes have occurred since Father Daniel Cassidy became priest in 1943.

Family and friends joined together for a mass and reception last Sunday in Boston, where Father grew up after emigrating from Ireland.

Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin in grammar school made such a strong impression on him that it drew him to the Josephites, whose mission primarily involves helping poor African Americans in the South. His current parish, St. Francis Xavier in Baltimore, is the oldest continuous African American parish in the country. The Josephites are currently celebrating their one-hundredth anniversary.

The work he did in the South was considered revolutionary, since it occurred during a time where there was a great deal of racial tension. In New Orleans, where he worked for a numbers of years, he taught English to children whose native language was Creole. His nephew Donald stated Father’s intention for Creole children to have their own school to learn English, “so that they would be better educated than their parents.”

His sister Eileen recalls how he told their mother that he wanted to become a priest. She said, “He handed her a note, which was strange.” Eileen and her husband Frank were the first couple Father married, which was two days after his ordination.

Father Daniel spent a great deal of time with children. An old friend, Father Peter Kenney, said “Whenever you saw a crowd of young people, you knew that Father Cassidy was there.” He went on to say that in creating a coat of arms for Father Daniel, he would include a shamrock, for his love of Ireland, a piano for his love of music, and a coffee pot to symbolize his hospitality.

His nephew Donald spoke of Daniel’s desire to create a better way of life for the people of Ireland. Father Daniel brought duck eggs over with him and introduced new farming techniques in order to present new sources of food to Irish people.

Daniel summarized his fiftieth anniversary by saying, “I’m glad I’ve lived this long, and I hope I’ll live much longer.” He wishes he could be more active in his church, but he is hampered by old age. Ideally, he wants more people to become priests. In fifty years, he sees the job of being a priest as being the same, yet “people’s problems have changed.”