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Edmundite Father David Cray’s Vocation Story

Society of Saint Edmund Superior General Father David Cray was born into an Irish Catholic family in Boston in 1945. His neighborhood housed the Maryknoll Brothers novitiate, the Daughters of Saint Paul motherhouse and novitiate, the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul orphanage and the Greek Orthodox Theological seminary. He fondly remembers building a tree house and skating in the park with the Maryknoll Brothers. He was embraced by religious life early on.

Edmundite Father Ray Doherty said the position of superior general that Father Dave holds now is at a critical time for the Catholic Church and is a challenging task. “He is handling this with great devotion and with hope for the future,” Father Ray said. “I have always enjoyed David’s talent for humorous story-telling which, I expect, enables him to accept serious responsibilities with grace. He is an ardent supporter of Saint Michael’s College and I am pleased to serve with him on the College’s Board of Trustees.”

Father Dave is the youngest of three born to John Cray, a high school Latin teacher, and Alice (Kernan) Cray, a Boston Public Library librarian. He attended public schools, graduated from Boston Latin School in 1963, and enrolled at St. Michael’s College in Colchester with the goal to become an English teacher, until his sophomore year when he entered the Edmundite novitiate after prompting from Edmundite faculty members and classmates.

He graduated from Saint Michael’s in 1968, studied theology at the University of Saint Michael’s College in Toronto, and earned a master of divinity degree in 1971. He was ordained into the priesthood by Burlington Bishop John Marshall in 1972. From there he was assigned as parochial vicar of Saint Edmund of Canterbury Parish, a parish staffed by the Society of Saint Edmund, in Whitton in southwest London. Later, he earned a master of theology degree in Black pastoral theology from Xavier University of Louisiana in 1997.

Father Dave served as Director of Scholastics and as Secretary General for the Society of Saint Edmund. He has also served as Director of Novices for his religious community at Enders Island in Mystic, Conn.

Edmundite Father Stanley Deresienski describes him as “a courageous leader and a dear brother” who embraces difficult changes with grace. “He is a witness to the importance of commitment and love to the life of an Edmundite,” Father Stan said. “His experience illustrates both. Twice he was uprooted from ministries that he loved and remained committed to the Edmundites, to the Church, and to God’s people.”

Many parishes were blessed to have Father Dave over the years, including in Quebec as pastor at Boucherville, Beloeil, Brossard, and Greenfield Park. And as the Episcopal Vicar for the English-speaking sector of the Diocese of Saint Jean-Longueuil, Quebec.

From Canada he transferred to Selma, Ala. in 1989, to act as Programs Director for the Edmundite Southern Missions, and from there he moved to New Orleans to be President of Bishop Perry Middle School.

Most recently, he was pastor of Saint Jude the Apostle Parish in Hinesburg, and of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Charlotte, Vermont from 2003 to 2020. St. Jude Administrative Assistant and Director of Religious Education Marie Cookson said she met Father Dave 18 years ago when he was the new pastor of St. Jude's. She liked him immediately, largely because of his great sense of humor. “He never failed to make me laugh at least once a day. I got to know him and his family through the years and he got to know mine. He became more than my boss. He had confidence in me which gave me confidence in myself.”

Marie said Father Dave made her job fun and something she looked forward to each day. “I miss the times that he would come into my office and just chat. Luckily he's not far away. My life has been blessed by having him in it.”

As for words of inspiration for those who are discerning their vocation, in 2019 when Father Dave read from The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as part of the Saint Anne’s Shrine summer reflection series, he spoke about Jesus’ words in The New Testament when Jesus was clearly asking his followers to leave everything behind and die to their old life. To paraphrase Father Dave, he said that in our own lives as disciples, we are asked to set our face toward Jesus and away from any desires that are not in line with love. “If what you are doing doesn’t have Jesus at the center of it, it won’t truly succeed,” Father Dave said. “Go with Jesus because there is no higher place above or safer place below.” Father Dave reminded the crowd that summer that disciples are always on the move and often are in strange and unfamiliar situations. He spoke of the way the Edmundite ministry is on the move and how he grew most when he was working in situations that were foreign to him. “Do it even if it’s scary,” he said.

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