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Gaffney, Rev. John Patrick



jp gaffneyRev. John Patrick Gaffney died on May 16, 2022, at the age of 86.

John was born on October 1, 1935, in Philadelphia, PA. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University, Olean, NY in 1958 following which he earned his Master of Divinity in Theology from Holy Name College, Washington D.C (1962). Later in 1972, he graduated with his Master of Science in Education with a major in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College, New Rochelle, NY.  He was ordained as a Franciscan (OFM)

For the first thirty or more years of his life, John was a faithful Catholic layperson and a priest both in the United States and in South America. In 1971, he left the Catholic priesthood and pursued a second vocation in education because he could no longer preach from the pulpit while personally rejecting basic beliefs and the moral teaching of the Catholic church such as celibacy and opposing birth controls. Shortly after leaving the priesthood, he started attending the Unitarian Universalist church. The lack of dogma and the serious search for ethics drew him back Sunday after Sunday. He became a deeply committed UU layperson. Over twenty years of studying the UU denomination, he realized that it was the setting in which he would like to work. He wanted to enter the UU Ministry and touch every part of the community.

Rev. Gaffney was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry on October 16, 1988. He served as a summer minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Rockford, IL (1993). He conducted Sunday services which included preaching, congregational response to the sermon, and a children’s story; and organized workshops on “Religious Roots” and “Death and Dying”.

In 1994, Rev. Gaffney accepted two half-time positions with the Bowie UU Fellowship, MD, and the UU Church of Hagerstown, MD. He served both congregations until 1996. At the Bowie Fellowship, he increased the meaningfulness of the worship services, implemented ideas and suggestions to enhance the worship experience, consistently encouraged the congregation members to participate, and acted as a resource for them. He met with the Director of Religious Education weekly, supported all her efforts including recruitment, guided her with suggestions, visited classes, and met periodically with the teens. He encouraged overall community spirit and included children and young adults in the whole UU experience. His ongoing discussion groups provided additional opportunities for spiritual growth discovery and involvement of newcomers and members. Furthermore, he represented the congregation at CUUMA, the ministerial group, UUA District (Joseph Priestly), and local (Greater Washington Association) meetings, as a member of the Bowie Ministers Association. Likewise, for the Hagerstown congregation, he was a catalyst moving the congregation to intellectual and spiritual growth and a sense of community from within. From 1996 to 2002, Rev. Gaffney served in the parish at the Goodloe Memorial Congregation, Bowie, MD engaging the congregation in a spiritual quest. He served the people, inspired, guided, and enriched their lives through his presence and services to them. His responses to the needs of the parishioner were immediate, supportive, and appropriate. His presence was a warm, empathetic one, his words, prayers, and meditations brought peace and a sense of comfort, and fostered an atmosphere where difficult decisions could be carefully and thoughtfully made. Upon his retirement in 2002, the congregation honored him as their minister emeritus.

For the Rockville Unitarian Church, MD Rev. Gaffney provided his services as a Junior High R.E. teacher (1983-1987). He served on the board and chaired the internship committee. In addition, he was a church administrator (1999-2004) for Goodloe Memorial Congregation, Bowie, MD.

Rev. Gaffney was vitally involved in the problems of the social community in which he lived. With his help and leadership, the ministerial community in Cumberland, MD grew in its sensitivity to various interfaith issues. In 1993, he was a visiting professor for Frostburg State University, MD where he taught a course in “Contemporary Ethical Problems” which included subjects such as Abortion, the Death Penalty, and Euthanasia.

In his spare time, he enjoyed jogging, camping, gardening, reading, theatre, travel, politics, and storytelling. He enjoyed family time with his wife and two daughters. His daughter Rachel recalls that John always liked to end his sermons by saying “Live simply, so that others may simply live.”

John is survived by his wife Beverly Gaffney nee Mitchell, two daughters, Juliette Dame of Ohio, and Rachel Bragg of Longwood, Florida, along with five grandchildren, Adam, Ryan, Patrick, Madeline, and Laurene. He is preceded in death by his parents, Mary Ruth and Joseph Gaffney, his brother, Joseph Gaffney, and sister Margaret Kelly.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Sierra Club, your local public broadcasting station, or the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI); or John would encourage everyone to travel and enjoy the great outdoors.