Thomas R. Hennigan, O.S.A.

1937 – 1991 (March 11)

Thomas Roland Hennigan was born on August 25, 1937, in New York City, one of three children and the only son of Thomas Hennigan and Mary Ellen Moriarty. He was baptized on September 12, 1937, at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church, the Bronx, grew up in this Augustinian parish and graduated from its grammar school in 1951. His secondary education was at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, N.Y. He graduated in June, 1955, and entered Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, N.Y. in September of that year. On September 10, 1956, he professed simple vows, and began his college studies at Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania. He graduated with an A.B. degree with majors in philosophy and English literature in June, 1961. On September 10, 1960 he pronounced solemn vows. He pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C., and on February 1, 1964, was ordained to the priesthood at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church, the Bronx, N.Y. Upon completion of his theology studies he was granted an M.A. in Religious Studies from Augustinian College.

Father Hennigan’s first assignment, in 1964, was to Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C. He remained there for two years, teaching English, religion, and U.S. history. His next assignment, in 1966, was to Monsignor Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, PA, where he taught English and served as chairman of the English department. In 1970 he returned to Archbishop Carroll as an instructor of English and moderator of debating. In 1971 he began graduate work in education at Columbia University in New York, while residing at Mount Augustine Retreat House, Staten Island. After two years of graduate work he began teaching in an alternative public high school in Yonkers, N.Y. In 1975 he designed and directed an alternative secondary school for the Pelham, N.Y. Public School System. From 1977-1979, he taught English and served as chaplain at Phillip’s Academy in Andover, MA.

In 1981 Father Hennigan co-founded a contemplative community on the grounds of the former novitiate in New Hamburg, N.Y. In 1984 he was assigned to Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, and began to serve as liaison for intercultural and international students at the college. On loan from Merrimack, he became assistant coordinator of the Northeast Consortium of Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, in which role he worked to provide greater access to higher education for linguistic minorities in the region. For more than 10 years, he was involved with the contemporary problems of the Native American Indians through his work with the Boston Indian Council and the American Indian Program at Harvard University. He also had a keen interest in the relationship between Zen Buddhism and Christianity.

At the time of his death on March 11, 1991, he was the local superior of the Austin Community in Lawrence, MA. “Buddy,” as his fellow Augustinians called him, felt a great sympathy for minority groups. One of the friars commented, “He was like a godfather to minority students who came to Merrimack, he kept track of their grades and shepherded them through the often confusing paperwork.” He belonged to many civic organizations in the area and felt very strongly the obligation to help both as a citizen and as a religious priest.

Father Thomas Casey, O.S.A., was the celebrant at the Mass of Christian Burial at the Chapel of Christ the Teacher on the campus of Merrimack College. Father Hennigan is buried in the Augustinian plot in Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Lawrence, MA.