Henry A. Caffrey, O.S.A.

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1892 – 1979 (January 20)

Henry Anthony Caffrey, son of William A. Caffrey and Catherin Fleming, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, November 12, 1892. His early education was obtained in his native city at the Bruce Grammar School and Lawrence High School where he was editor of the class monthly magazine in his senior year, acted in the class play, played varsity football for two years and was valedictorian when he graduated in 1910. For the next four years he worked as a payroll clerk in the Wood Worsted Mills. At the age of 21, in 1914, he enrolled as a postulant at the Augustinian Preparatory Scholasticate, Saint Rita Hall, Villanova, September. Two years later he was received as a novice in June 1916, and made simple profession on June 24, 1917, and solemn profession on June 27, 1920. He graduated from Villanova College in 1919 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, being again valedictorian of his class and receiving the medal in ethics “ex aequo.” After studying theology for one year at Villanova, he was sent to Saint Monica’s International College, Rome, in November 1920, where he completed his theological training in 1923. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Giuseppe Palica at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran on December 23, 1922, and offered his first mass the next day at the tomb of Saint Peter. 

Upon his return to the United States, Father Caffrey was assigned to the professorium, Saint Rita Hall, Villanova, as assistant rector of postulants from 1923 to 1925. In 1925, when the novitiate was moved from Villanova to New Hamburg, New York, Father Caffrey was named sub-master of the professorium, then, in November, master. In 1932, he was appointed prior and rector of postulants at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island. Recalled to Villanova, he was selected prior of the monastery and served in this position from 1938 until 1944. 

A move to pastoral responsibilities began when he was appointed prior of Saint Rita Parish, Philadelphia from 1944 to 1947, and was engaged actively in all parochial activities. In the latter year he was sent to the novitiate at New Hamburg on a temporary assignment to give the master a respite, but he remained there the rest of his active life, 29 years – fifteen years at master, six as prior, and eight as a professor, until the novitiate was re-located, and he returned to Villanova. 

During his years at Villanova and Staten Island, Father Caffrey taught theology, philosophy, literature, homiletics, and public speaking. He was elected definitor of the Province and was much in demand as a preacher and retreat master. As he himself wrote most of his fifty-six years in the priesthood “were devoted to formation work in our Order.” At the time of his death only 25 friars of the Province had not been his students; over 1,270 Augustinians had been graced by his counsel. A tireless worker, following a carefully modulated daily horarium, Father Caffrey was an Augustinian par excellence. His failing health requiring constant supervision. He was lovingly cared for at the Villa of Divine Providence, Lansdale, Pennsylvania from 1976 until his death on January 20, 1979. He is buried in the Augustinian plot at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pa.