The Saint Edmund’s Medal of Honor will be given to Father Ray Doherty, S.S.E. at Enders Island in Mystic, Connecticut this October. This event celebrates the lives of those who reflect the legacy of Saint Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury and patron of Enders Island and Saint Edmund’s Retreat.
Father Ray, 89, is a Newton, Massachusetts native, and a former Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He is an admired presence on the Saint Michael’s College campus. College alumnus Jerry Flanagan said he first met Father Ray in the fall of 1967 when Father Ray was just starting his position as Director of Campus Ministry. He has served in campus ministry and on the board of trustees at the college for half a century.
“I have always considered him my spiritual advisor and continue to meet with him,” Jerry said. “He is and has always been a great role model for me. We consider him a part of our family and I am certain that others would say the same. We all are better people for having known him during his life of service to God, Saint Michael’s College and country.
Father Ray answered a few questions on August 5, 2019:
What does a day-in-the-life of Father Ray Doherty look like on Saint Michael’s College Campus?
I am semi-retired now but am still quite active. I am on the board of trustees, the board of the fire and rescue squad and the advisory board of the college magazine. I take a couple of weekday Masses every week. I help out any way I can. I am not quite as strong as I used to be, but I do what I can. I directed campus ministry for 13 years. I made it a point to get to know the students by name. I got to know some of them just by walking to the dining room. I took the time to stop and talk to them. The LEAP program loosened me up a little bit. (LEAP is a Christian group at Saint Michael's College that helps students find the presence of Christ in their lives through retreats at Saint Anne's Shrine.)
What are your thoughts on being honored at Enders Island this October?
I think the Edmundites are really good at not putting on airs, not striving for honors. We all like to be honored but generally we are simple in our lifestyle and down to earth with the people we work with. People come to our Masses because they like the liturgies. They are well done. We open up our dining room on Christmas Eve and people get to know us. It’s a good thing. We seem to be well-liked.
Why did you fall in love with Jesus?
I had a religious upbringing. My parents practiced the faith. We would go to church every Sunday. My father was the head usher in the parish. My mother would walk us up to the front pew. We were always late for Mass. We had one bathroom for six people so it was a struggle to get everybody organized and out. My oldest brother liked to sleep in. They were strong in the faith. They weren’t likely to sit around and talk about holy things but they were faithful. As for Jesus’ love, I took it for granted. I just knew it was there for me. We were not much for throwing the word ‘love’ around. It’s very common now. I knew my parents loved me by the way they treated me. They went through tough times but there was always food on the table. My father had a good business but the Great Depression wiped him out. WWII and Korea got our family back on our feet. Wars have had a huge impact on shaping our culture and building our economy.
Did you ever serve in a war?
I was a Staff Sergeant in the Marines during the Korean War but it was my education that I received from Saint Michael’s College that saved me from having to go to Korea. I got into journalism. I was editor of the college newspaper. Thank God for John Donoghue. He was a beautiful man and a mentor to me—a second father. He trained me in journalism well. The Marines needed a public information officer. I was promoted to combat correspondent but never saw combat, thank God.
Why did you become a priest?
It’s not too complex. Growing up in a parish school every boy thought about the priesthood at one time or another, which I did. In college I had a few steady girlfriends but it was when I was about to leave the Marine Corps that I started thinking seriously about my future. I was living in a Quonset hut with 15 other Marines and it was a blessing that just outside the hut was a Chapel. I got into the habit of going to daily mass. I got to know the chaplains there. So the thoughts were coming back to me about becoming a priest and one night when I was in my bunk I felt the call. You know how they say vocation is a call, well I felt that call in that bunk. It felt so strong.
The Edmundites were special for me because I had never known priests that well until coming to Saint Michel’s College where I got to know them personally. When I started thinking seriously about priesthood, I naturally thought of the Society of Saint Edmund. When I was released into inactive service I wrote to Father Eymard Galligan who was the vocation director for the Society of Saint Edmund. I had known him as a student. It was a hard letter to write and I was nervous about it because I didn’t know Latin. Masses were in Latin back then. After a long period of not hearing anything, I got a phone call at the last minute that he was coming to see me. He stayed for dinner and then overnight at my home with my parents. It was nice. He sold me that I should give it a try. Here I am today.
What is the best part of being an Edmundite Priest?
Working with the students when I was director of campus ministry. Celebrating the Eucharist. Getting to be the director of the LEAP program for seven years. I didn’t want to get involved initially but I often feel that way about things where I lack confidence. Then I do get involved and they work out great. Directing the LEAP program was such a turning point in my life. It gave me a chance to know students at a different level than on campus. Some of the students had never had a religious experience in their life. It’s an important program and good to have.
People tell us that Edmundites are very hospitable. I got into this to serve the poor and I appreciate the vow of poverty. We are pretty middle class in our lifestyle. We have three meals a day. People go on vacations. We share a common life and share what we have. Whatever we earn we turn in to the general fund. That to me is religious life and I like that.
You have mentioned many great things in your life have happened last minute. Can you explain this?
I don’t like to be overly pious about these things but I do think sometimes it is the case that the Holy Spirit intercedes. I got into college at the last minute. I got saved in the Marine Corp at the last minute by getting an assignment that didn’t take me into Korea. I got into the Edmundites at the last minute. Those are just a few of the things. There are so many more that just seem like the Holy Spirit is working there.
What’s the meaning of life?
Beautiful! That’s a good question. That question has been going around for a long time. From a religious point of view, which my whole life has been centered around, my purpose in life is to serve God and God’s people, to put it very simply and briefly. I could do a lot better, I am sure. That’s my goal anyway.
For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund or choosing your vocation please visit www.sse.org/vocation or call Father Lino Oropeza at (802) 654-2344 or email him at email@example.com.
For more information about St. Edmund's Medal of Honor at Enders Island please visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/e8e/ or call (860) 536-0565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.