BOSTON -- Monsignor Charles A. Finn, the oldest Roman Catholic priest in the nation, is dead at the age of 104.
Finn, the oldest living graduate of Boston College and the American College in Rome and the oldest member of the Knights of Columbus, died Sunday at Regina Cleri, a home for retired priests in Boston, where he had lived the past 14 years.
It was estimated he celebrated over 24,000 masses.
'He was constantly on the move but never too busy to stop and talk with people,' said a long-time friend, the Rev. Kenneth Murphy, pastor of Holy Name Parish in West Roxbury.
'Monsignor Finn was one of those poeple who occasionally come into our lives and leave their footsteps on our heart,' he said.
He was known as 'Zip,' because of his enthusiasm and quick walk.
'The Lord has been very good to me,' he said in a 1979 interview. 'I still get up at 5:45 every morning for mass. I'm in good health and I take a long walk and read every day. But, mostly I read because one is never too old to learn something new.'
Even then, he was peppy and unbent, with a cherubic look about him.
At his centennial celebration at Regina Cleri, the Monsignor Jeremiah L. O'Neill of Rockland said, 'This man is the most beloved priest in the Boston archdiocese. There's no use in waiting until a man is dead to speak well of him. He was a tremendous example to us. And he still is.'
A scholar and educator as well as parish priest and pastor for 79 years, he was born in Dedham Aug. 2, 1877, and was valedictorian of his class at Dedham High School.
An 1899 graduate of BC, he was ordained in Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran in 1903, then took a doctorate in theology at the University of the Propaganda, also in Rome.
While in Rome he was chosen to serve as mass officer at the burial of Pope Leo XIII.
He returned to the Boston area in 1905 and served in Salem's Immaculate Conception Church, St. Paul's Church in Cambridge and was the first chaplain of the Catholic Club at Harvard University.
He taught at St. John's Seminary in Boston from 1913 to 1926. He then served as rector until 1933. He also taught for five years at Emmanuel College.
He is survived by several nieces and nephews.
A mass will be celebrated Wednesday at 10 am. in Holy Name Church in West Roxbury. Burial will be in Brookdale Cemetery, Dedham.