Updated: Mar 11, 2021
Newton Massachusetts native Father Ray Doherty is a former Staff Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps. Saint Michael's College alumnus Jerry Flanagan said he first met this Edmundite in the fall of 1967 when Father Ray was just starting his position as Director of Campus Ministry where he served 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. This ninety year old is retired now but still quite active. “I am not quite as strong as I used to be, but I do what I can,” Father Ray said.
When he directed campus ministry, he made it a point to get to know students by name. “I got to know some of them just by walking to the dining room,” he said. “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. As for being an Edmundite, he said they are really good at not putting on airs and 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,” he said. “People come to our Masses because they like the liturgies. We seem to be well-liked.”
From a religious point of view, which his life has been centered around, his purpose in life is to serve God and God’s people, Father Ray said. “I could do a lot better, I am sure. That’s my goal anyway.” Father Ray had a religious upbringing. His parents practiced the faith. They attended church every Sunday. His father was the head usher in their parish. His mother would walk all of her children up to the front pew. “We were always late for Mass,” Father Ray said. “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.”
While his family was strong in the faith, they weren’t likely to sit around and talk about holy things. “As for Jesus’ love, I took it for granted,” Father Ray said. “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.”
Father Ray’s family went through tough times but there was always food on the table. His father had a good business but the Great Depression hit hard. “WWII and Korea got our family back on our feet,” Father Ray said. “Wars have had a huge impact on shaping our culture and building our economy.”
As a Staff Sergeant in the Marines during the Korean War, it was his Saint Michael’s College education that saved him from having to go to Korea. “I got into journalism,” he said. “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.”
The decision to become a priest was not complex, he said. “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 him because he had never known priests well until coming to Saint Michel’s College. “When I started thinking seriously about priesthood, I naturally thought of the Society of Saint Edmund.” When he was released into inactive service, he wrote to Father Eymard Galligan who was the vocation director for the Society of Saint Edmund at the time. He 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,” Father Ray said. “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 told me that I should give it a try. Here I am today.”
He added, “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.” The best part of being an Edmundite Priest is working with the students and celebrating the Eucharist, he said. “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.” For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund or choosing your vocation please email firstname.lastname@example.org.