December 23, 1950 - July 12, 2010
Archdiocese of Boston—The Rev. James Field, pastor at Incarnation Parish in Melrose, died Monday morning after a two-year struggle with pancreatic cancer.
Father Field was a life-long educator and Xaverian Brother who worked at Notre Dame University and Malden Catholic High School before requesting a position at Incarnation Parish in Melrose in 2002.
Field had a self-professed passion for the liturgy and rituals of the Catholic church, and he focused much of his religious study on the history of Catholic traditions. Field tried to instill his fascination with the liturgy in his students and parishioners, making it a focal point of his religious program at Incarnation.
Field’s decision to carry on his ministry at Incarnation when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 became an inspiration to parishioners, who celebrated the 20th anniversary of Field’s ordination as a Catholic priest on Sunday, June 20.
Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan called Field’s death, “a loss for the entire community.”
“The way he faced his final illness with dignity and strength is an inspiration to us all,” Dolan said in a statement provided to the Free Press. “In addition, Father Field went beyond the boundaries of his parish and joined the other members of the Interfaith Clergy Association to confront discrimination, help the poor, and advance issues that are common among all people of faith, regardless of denomination. He truly walked in the way of love, and the city mourns the loss of this good and holy man.”
Field grew up in Marblehead, and was interested in studying scripture from the time he was in high school in the 1960s, when the Second Vatican Council created a new energy and enthusiasm in the Catholic Church.
After graduating from high school, Field became a member of the Xaverian Brothers — an international congregation with religious laypeople dedicated to the education of youth — and taught various subjects at a school in Connecticut. He then earned a graduate degree in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame, and became an administrator and liturgy teacher at the school.
Field moved back to the Boston area in the 1980s, and worked for several years as dean of studies and associate headmaster at Malden Catholic High School.
Field was ordained as a priest in 1990, and later requested to serve in Melrose when a position opened at Incarnation Parish. He was assigned to the church in 2002 by Cardinal Bernard Law.
When Field was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2008, doctors said the illness could leave him dead within weeks. Field returned to the parish with the diagnosis hanging over him, uncertain of how long he could continue his ministry at the church. In a recent interview with the Free Press, Field said it was a moment that challenged — but failed to overwhelm — his faith.
“Faith prepares you for anything,” Field said. “[The diagnosis was] a time of testing faith, certainly … but I don’t think of myself as an especially courageous person. I got great strength from my faith.”
As Field endeavored to carry on his duties over the last two years at the church, parishioners pulled closer to the ailing priest, sharing with him an energy that Field said, in part, helped to sustain him on his good days and bad.
“I draw such great strength from the community here,” Field said, “and just that hour on Sunday morning when I see them. I know their kindnesses to me, and I also know their struggles and their troubles.”
Sue Caffey, an Incarnation church member, said Field died early Monday inside the rectory at the church. A funeral liturgy is being planned for Friday July 16th at his parish with Cardinal Sean O'Malley as celebrant.
Tribute prepared by Jim Haddadin, © 2010, Melrose Free Press.