Reverend Monsignor Francis R. Seymour entered eternal life on Thursday, December 27, 2018, following complications of a cardiac event and trauma from an auto collision on December 22. He was 81, and earlier this year had celebrated the 55th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Upon hearing the news of Monsignor’s passing, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, said, “Today this local Church of Newark mourns a remarkable, respected and much-loved priest whose devotion to the people of God and to his brother priests was always strong and ever-growing. Throughout his entire priestly ministry – spanning six decades – every county within the Archdiocese, and indeed, hundreds of thousands of people in close to 40 parishes, experienced that love and caring, often at times of significant change or challenge.”
Francis R. Seymour was born on October 4, 1937 in Bayonne, NJ. His parents were the late George and Mary Boyle Seymour. He attended St. Mary, Star of the Sea Grammar School, Bayonne; St. Peter’s High School, Staten Island, NY; Seton Hall University, South Orange, and Immaculate Conception Seminary, then located at Mahwah, NJ.
Archbishop Thomas A. Boland ordained him a priest for service to the Archdiocese of Newark on May 25, 1963 in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Newark. One month later, Father Seymour began his priestly ministry as a parochial vicar of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Newark, where he remained for six years. During this time, he also served as Chaplain at Newark Beth Israel Hospital.
In 1969, he was named Archdiocesan Archivist, and an Assistant in the Matrimonial Tribunal of the Archdiocese, with residency at Holy Cross Rectory, Harrison. While there, he also served as Moderator of the Holy Cross CYO.
Four years later, Archbishop Peter L. Gerety appointed Father Seymour a Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese. Then in 1974, he was named Archdiocesan Director of Catholic Relief Services, responsible for directing and coordinating all local efforts to assist the national agency in responding to both national and international calamities.
His Holiness, St. Pope John Paul II elevated him to the position of Chaplain to His Holiness, with the title of Reverend Monsignor, in 1979. A year later, Archbishop Gerety appointed him Rector of Sacred Heart Cathedral. In 1981, he moved to Allendale as Pastor of Guardian Angel Church. While in Allendale, Monsignor Seymour served as President of the town’s Ministerial Association, an organization of local clergy concerned with promoting ecumenical unity and participation in local community outreach, and Chaplain to the town’s Police and Fire Departments.
In 1987, he was appointed Administrative Assistant to the Office of the Archbishop and Director of Ministry to Retired Priests, with residence at Sacred Heart Cathedral Rectory, Newark. The following year he became Associate Director of the Archdiocesan office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, while retaining his responsibility for the retired priests. He also changed his residence at that time to St. Cecilia’s Rectory, Kearny, where he continued to live for the next 30 years until his passing.
In 1990, he was appointed Secretary to Archbishop Emeritus Peter Gerety.
From 1994 until his passing, Monsignor served as Editor of the annual Directory and Almanac of the Archdiocese of Newark. He was a Charter member of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission and served for a time as a member of the Board of Trustees of Seton Hall University. He also served as Secretary of the Archdiocesan College of Consultors, and Chaplain to the Police and Fire Departments of Harrison, New Jersey.
During his many years of service in the Archdiocese of Newark, Monsignor Seymour had served as Pastor or Administrator of close to 40 parishes – the only priest of the Archdiocese to hold that distinction. He also worked on the arrangements and preparations for most of the major liturgical functions that took place in the Cathedral Basilica over the past 50+ years – everything from the installation of bishops and Archbishops, to funerals for bishops, to the Papal Visit of St. Pope John Paul II in 1995.
Monsignor Seymour also served as the commentator for WWOR-TV’s live coverage of that visit. The Holy Father also elevated him to the rank of Prelate of Honor in 1999. The following year he was appointed full-time to Seton Hall University, where he continued to serve as Archdiocesan Archivist until his passing.
In 2009 Archbishop John J. Myers appointed Monsignor Seymour Chairman of the New Jersey Catholic Historical Commission. And in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI approved his membership in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and he was as invested as a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre in fall 2010.
His devotion to the Church and to the priesthood was a hallmark of his life. Speaking of his life as a priest during the Mass marking the celebration of his Golden Jubilee in 2013, Monsignor Seymour said to the community gathered in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart: “Many of you have been thoughtful enough to thank me for one or another pastoral ministry I may have exercised on your behalf. However, it is the Lord who really deserves that gratitude. Whatever ministry I have performed in my priesthood has been given to me by Him. I could never do it simply on my own power. No priest could. It is only when we cooperate with the plans of The Lord that we will be effective priests.”
Also during those remarks, Monsignor paraphrased comments that General Douglas MacArthur had made to the Cadet Corps of the US Military Academy upon his last visit to the Academy: “When I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the priesthood, and the priesthood, and the priesthood. Amen.”
Funeral arrangements are as follows:
Reception of the Body at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street, Newark, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 30. Viewing will take place between 3 and 7 p.m. Vigil service will then take place starting at 7:30 p.m. Reverend Marco F. Schad will deliver the Homily. Viewing will resume on Monday, Dec. 31, from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial for the repose of the soul of Monsignor Francis R. Seymour is scheduled for Monday, December 31 at 10:30 a.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. Most Reverend Manuel A. Cruz, Regional Bishop of Newark, will preside, and Reverend Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale will be the Homilist.
Following the funeral, Monsignor Seymour will be laid to rest in the Priests’ Circle of Holy Name Cemetery, Jersey City.