CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Cardinal Wuerl celebrated a May 12 Mass at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville to honor 16 priests of the Archdiocese of Washington celebrating milestone anniversaries this year. In the photo above, the cardinal poses with three priests marking their 60th anniversaries this year: From left are Father Bernard Ihrie and Msgr. John Brady, and at right is Msgr. Vincent Gatto. Not pictured is Msgr. Martin Harris, also marking his 60th jubilee. Those priests, who were ordained in 1955, are retired. Their biographies appeared in the May 7 Catholic Standard.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Cardinal Wuerl celebrated a May 12 Mass at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville to honor 16 priests of the Archdiocese of Washington celebrating milestone anniversaries this year. In the photo above, the cardinal poses with three priests marking their 60th anniversaries this year: From left are Father Bernard Ihrie and Msgr. John Brady, and at right is Msgr. Vincent Gatto. Not pictured is Msgr. Martin Harris, also marking his 60th jubilee. Those priests, who were ordained in 1955, are retired. Their biographies appeared in the May 7 Catholic Standard.

Sixteen priests of the Archdiocese of Washington celebrating milestone anniversaries this year will be honored at a May 12 Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wuerl at the St. Ursula Chapel of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville. The Mass, followed by a dinner, will honor four priests celebrating their 60th anniversaries, two priests celebrating their 50th jubilees, five priests marking their 40th  jubilees, and five priests who were ordained 25 years ago.

Each year, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Office of Youth Ministry honors someone for their outstanding service in Catholic Scouting by presenting them with the Msgr. John Brady Award. Msgr. John Brady, who turns 86 on May 7 and is marking his 60th anniversary as a priest this year, has been called the “father of Catholic Scouting” in the archdiocese. As a teen, he achieved Scouting’s highest honor, being named an Eagle Scout, and since 1960, he has served as a priest chaplain for Scouting in the archdiocese.

“It (Scouting) is really a vocations program,” he said in an earlier interview. “It helps young people determine what they should do with their life.”

Over the years, Msgr. Brady has celebrated Masses for Scouts in campouts and retreats besides lakes, rivers, forests and near mountains, and he has had the honor of being a chaplain at National Jamborees and at the Goshen Scout camps in Virginia.

A native of Washington, he attended St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1955. Over the years, Msgr. Brady served as a pastor at Holy Angels Parish in Avenue from 1994-2005, at St. John Vianney in Prince Frederick from 1985-94, and at St. Joseph in Pomfret from 1974-85. Earlier, he served as a parochial vicar at Holy Redeemer Parish in Kensington and at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, and as a chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. In 1991, he was named a monsignor.

When he retired in 2005, he was serving as pastor at Holy Angels in Avenue, a parish near St. Clement’s Island in Southern Maryland, where the first Mass in the English-speaking colonies was celebrated in 1634. “The faith really started here and spread to the 13 colonies,” he said. “It’s a great honor to be where it began… I really felt very close to God here.”

Msgr. Brady once said that his greatest honor as a priest has been in letting God work through him as he served at city, suburban and rural parishes. “Being a priest is a pretty exciting life. Things happen that you couldn’t do by yourself,” he said. A special role model for him was St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests and of the parish in Prince Frederick that he once led. “He showed people the way to God,” said Msgr. Brady. 

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While serving in the U.S. Army in the Philippines in 1945-46 doing administrative work after World War II had ended, Vincent Gatto found his vocation and his life’s work. The native of Troy, N.Y., stopped in at a Catholic U.S.O. in Manila and picked up a vocations pamphlet that inspired him to seek the priesthood. “I decided I had a vocation, and I pursued that when I came back to the United States,” he said.

This year, Msgr. Vincent Gatto, who is now 88, marks his 60th anniversary as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. Since he retired in 2005, he has been in residence at St. Raphael Parish in Rockville, where he continues on a regular schedule celebrating daily and Sunday Masses and hearing Confessions.

When he returned from his military service, he studied at The Catholic University of America, eventually becoming a seminarian for the archdiocese and earning a licentiate in sacred theology at Theological College. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1955, Father Gatto served as a parochial vicar at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington from 1955-69, and during some of those years, he taught at Mackin High School and served as a master of ceremonies for Washington Auxiliary Bishop John Spence. Father Gatto then served as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac from 1969-83 and was named a monsignor the next year. “One of the nicest things (there) was getting to know a lot of people and their children, especially through the school,” he said.

In 1983, he was assigned to serve as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Garrett Park, which had been founded by his good friend, Msgr. W. Louis Quinn. “I built on the work of my friend. He laid the plans, and you might say I finished it,” said Msgr. Gatto. Under his leadership, the sanctuary at Holy Cross was redone and four stained glass windows were added, a vestibule was built, and all the pews were refinished.

Msgr. Gatto said the people at Holy Cross were very welcoming to him, and he said that he felt blessed to serve as a pastor there for 22 years until his retirement in 2005. Over the years, he said, he presided at many baptisms, weddings and funerals there.  “It’s true for most pastors, you love them (your parishioners), and they love you,” he said.

When he retired, Msgr. Gatto celebrated a special Mass for the Holy Cross schoolchildren, and he said that in his retirement, he would continue to pray for them and do what priests do best – celebrate Mass, and that he has done. 

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In 1970, Father Martin Harris was called into the office of Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle, then the archbishop of Washington. Msgr. Harris, who is now 91, recalls how the conversation went. “Father, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to become the pastor of St. John Parish in Hollywood,” the archbishop said, alerting the priest about his transfer to the rural parish in St. Mary’s County. The archbishop, with tongue in cheek, added, “Yeah, you may become a movie star, going to Hollywood.”

Msgr. Martin Harris, who this year marks his 60th anniversary as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, said in an interview, “I was here for 33 years, and I never got a bid from Hollywood. I wouldn’t have taken it anyway. The 33 years here, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

A native of Little Falls, N.Y., Father Martin Paul Harris was ordained to the priesthood in 1955, and served as a parochial vicar at Holy Redeemer Parish in College Park and St. Anthony Parish in Washington before being assigned to St. John’s. He was named a monsignor in 1991.

Before retiring in 2004, Msgr. Harris served as pastor at St. John’s from 1970-2000, and then as its parochial administrator. He saw the area around the country church eventually expand with residential and business development surrounding the nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station, but what didn’t change was the parish’s spirit, he said. “It was a family. It was my family. It was a family parish for all of us.”

Since his retirement, Msgr. Harris has lived in California, Maryland, about two to three miles away from St. John Francis Regis Church in Hollywood, where he still occasionally concelebrates Mass. His greatest blessing of his priesthood, he said, was “ministering to the people, (and) celebrating Mass. That was the core of everything.”

The priest may have never gained Hollywood stardom, but his fame lives on in the family parish where he devoted most of his priestly service. The multipurpose room at St. John’s – where a variety of parish and school events take place, including parish breakfasts and school lunches, basketball games, youth group meetings, Bible studies, wedding receptions and anniversaries, and the summer camp – is named the Msgr. Harris Center in his honor.

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Reflecting on the variety of experiences in his 60 years as a priest, Father Bernard Ruppert Ihrie Jr. said, “The greatest blessing really is getting to know so many people and have so many friends.”

Father Ihrie retired in 1997 after serving as pastor of St. Philip the Apostle in Camp Springs from 1983-91, and then serving for six years as a senior priest there. He earlier served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bryantown from 1970-81. A licensed pilot, he served as a chaplain for the U.S. Air Force from 1961-67, where he was stationed stateside and in Taiwan. Earlier, he served as a chaplain for the District Air National Guard. The Washington native attended Gonzaga College High School and during World War II served as a Navy medic at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

After attending St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1955, and over the years, he served as a parochial vicar at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville, and Holy Redeemer in Kensington.

During his priesthood, Father Ihrie said he especially liked giving sermons. “I enjoyed bringing Christ to others in a way I thought they could understand. That’s what I was ordained to do,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed hearing Confessions, “not only bringing the word of Christ, but bringing the mercy of Christ to people who need it as much as I do.”

Now 88, the retired priest lives in Edgewater, Maryland. Once a month, he celebrates a Mass and gives a talk for the special religious education program at St. Philip the Apostle Parish. A former season ticket holder for Washington Capital games, he enjoys watching hockey on television and reading murder mystery novels. He sends and receives about 200 Christmas cards each year, staying connected with friends he met throughout his priesthood. “It’s nice to keep in touch,” he said. “You have a family really, you have so many close friends.”