Msgr. Foley Was Not Afraid to Serve All

Msgr. Foley

Msgr. Matthew F. Foley, a retired priest of the diocese, died May 24 at Bishop Mugavero Residence, Douglaston. He was 88.

Born in South Ozone Park, Msgr. Foley was baptized in St. Clement Pope Church. He attended Cathedral College, Brooklyn, and Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, and was ordained June 2, 1956 by Archbishop Thomas E. Molloy at St. James Pro-Cathedral, Downtown Brooklyn.

He did post-graduation studies and received his masters of social work from Fordham University and a doctorate in education from NYU.

He served as an associate at Sacred Heart, Fort Greene, 1956-59.  He then was assigned as co-director of Catholic Charities Family Services, 1959-65. In 1965, he began a 38-year tenure at Epiphany, Williamsburg, where he was an assistant, administrator and pastor.

He also directed Epiphany Youth Center. He retired in 2003 to live in Bethel, N.Y., where he worked with Mexican migrants in the Monticello area.

“Father Foley was one of the great priests of the Brooklyn Diocese who devoted himself totally to the people he served,” said Ed Wilkinson, editor emeritus of The Tablet, and long-time friend.

“His work on the streets of Williamsburg establishing an alternative to the gangs for the young people of the neighborhood was legendary.  He also established a credit union for the adults and supervised a full roster of parish groups such as the Cursillistas and the Ladies of the Sacred Heart.

“He shunned publicity.  Instead he worked tirelessly for the spiritual and material welfare of the people he served.”

A little-known piece of diocesan history is that Father Foley was the priest called to Cumberland Hospital to anoint NYPD Det. Frank Serpico when he was shot during a drug raid on the streets of the parish. A hit movie later commemorated the detective’s work.

Father Lewis Maynard was the homilist at the funeral Mass, which was held on May 29 at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.  Bishop Raymond Chappetto was the main celebrant. Special concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, Msgr. John O’Brien, and Father Thomas Pettei.

Burial was in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Liberty, N.Y.

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One thought on “Msgr. Foley Was Not Afraid to Serve All

  1. I knew Matt Foley since our days together at Immaculate Conception Seminary. Even as a seminarian, he was a role model for young men searching for a way to be good Christians, let alone good priests. While I was a young priest in a Bedford Stuyvesant parish, I was always conscious of “Matt Foley” not that far away in Williamsburg. The glow of his love and dedication spread over the whole area.