An Irishman through and through, Fr. Flynn was ‘a fun priest to be around’

Fr. Thomas P. Flynn, who served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile from 1988 to 2000, was “definitely an Irishman” and loved motorcycles and dancing the Irish jig, former parish co-workers say. Fr. Flynn, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit for 60 years, died July 28 at the age of 85. (Archdiocese of Detroit photo)

GROSSE ILE — Fr. Thomas Flynn grew up in a big Irish family with seven siblings, and he carried that identity with him throughout his priesthood.

“He was a definitely an Irishman. He was very pleasant, and very easy to work with, very supportive and outgoing and welcoming,” said Belinda Badyrka, administrative assistant at Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile, where Fr. Flynn was pastor from 1988 to 2000.

Fr. Flynn died July 28 at the age of 85, just weeks after celebrating the 60th anniversary of his priesthood.

Born Oct. 6, 1934, in Detroit, Thomas Patrick Flynn was one of four boys and four girls of Lester and Rose Flynn. After studying at the University of Detroit, Sacred Heart Seminary and St. John’s Provincial Seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 4, 1960, at the age of 25.

Fr. Flynn served as associate pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores (1960-65) and St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish in Warren (1965-72) before being given his first pastoral assignment at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Oak Park.

After serving for seven years at Our Lady of Fatima (1972-79), Fr. Flynn became pastor of St. Eugene Parish in Detroit (1979-88), and later at Sacred Heart Parish on Grosse Ile, where he served until failing eyesight forced him to retire in 2000.

A “fun” priest who also sported an Irish work ethic, Fr. Flynn helped built a new gathering space at Sacred Heart in 1990 and spearheaded renovations to the parish’s St. Anne Chapel and rectory, which had been “falling apart,” Badyrka said.

Terry Morreau, Christian service director at Sacred Heart and one of three employees of the parish who worked under Fr. Flynn, remembered the priest for his good-natured jokes, love of dancing and captivating homilies.

“He was a very well-liked priest. Everybody just loved him. But he was also a fun priest,” said Morreau, whom Fr. Flynn hired in 1999. “He was very Irish and into dancing the Irish jig. When it came around to St. Patrick’s Day, there would be a special thing at the church, and Father was one of the dancers. He was a fun priest to be around.”

Besides his Irish heritage, Fr. Flynn also loved to ride motorcycles and would often take his own for a spin to visit parishioners. He also owned a black Labrador retriever he would take “everywhere,” Morreau said.

Fr. Flynn was always approachable whenever a parishioner would need help, advice or counsel, but he was also quick with a joke to lighten the mood.

“When my daughter was getting married, she went to him for pre-marriage instruction. They had to fill out a form, and one of the questions was about arguing,” Morreau recalled. “Ginger said to Father, ‘We don’t argue in our family.’ He said to Ginger, ‘I came from a big family, and my mom and dad argued, and I’m a priest.’ So my daughter responded and told him she came from a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family.”

This was before Morreau worked for the parish, or even knew Fr. Flynn, she said.

“So when I first met Fr. Flynn, he said to me, ‘You’re the one from the ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family,” Morreau laughed. “He loved people. That’s what made him a good priest.”

When his eyesight began failing, Fr. Flynn refused to give up preaching, and the parish instead purchased a special computer with larger letters to allow him to continue to write his homilies.

As his sight worsened, however, he retired in 2000 but continued to offer confessions and sacraments at nearby parishes, including St. Joan of Arc, where he served his first assignment.

“He was always there for anybody who needed him,” Morreau said. “He was just such a nice guy.”

Fr. Flynn was predeceased by his parents, Lester and Rose Flynn; his sisters, Eileen Blessing, Rose Mary, Maureen Henze; and brothers, Patrick and Terence. He is survived by his sister, Catherine and his brother, Lester; as well as many loving nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Aug. 6 at St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores.