Father Tom Field

Father Tom Field CINCINNATI—Glenmary Father Tom Field, a member of the Cincinnati-based Glenmary Home Missioners for 29 years, died Feb. 27, 2004, in Cincinnati. Born July 6, 1939, the Minneapolis, Minn., native died following surgery on Feb. 23. He suffered from Parkinson's disease.

Father Field entered Glenmary in 1974. He said upon his retirement in 2000 that Glenmary appealed to him because of its small size—and because he would be able to use his building skills in his ministry. He was a licensed electrician before joining Glenmary.

"Fr. Tom's personality and demeanor put people at ease," said Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary and a classmate of Father Fields. "He had a wonderful gift of making people feel welcome in his presence, which made him a wonderfully effective missioner, especially to those with special needs."

His first assignment, following ordination in 1978, was as associate pastor in Winfield, Ala., and its mission in Fayette. During his time in Fayette, the Catholic community outgrew the house in which they were meeting. So Father Field spearheaded the construction of a new church. Holy Family Church was completed in June 1983, just two months before Father Field took up a new assignment as pastor of the Catholic community in Fayetteville, Tenn., and its mission in Pulaski.

Soon after his arrival in Fayetteville, he put his building talents to work once again. The Pulaski community attended Mass at the local First National Bank when Father Field arrived. After celebrating Mass in tellers' cages for a couple of years, he and the parish celebrated the completion of Immaculate Conception Church in June 1985.

He remained in Tennessee until 1991. After spending several months that year at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio in a Ministry to Ministers Program, he assumed the pastorate of Glenmary's Bryson City, N.C., mission, St. Joseph, in 1992 and its satellite mission in Cherokee, N.C. It was there he made his home for the next eight years. While in North Carolina, as in all his mission assignments, Father Field became well known for his community involvement. Although he never liked to discuss his involvement, he proudly talked of the parish's involvement in a center for victims of domestic violence, Meals on Wheels, the local food pantry and many other outreach programs.

During his time in Alabama, such community involvement led to a death threat from the Ku Klux Klan. After intervening to stop a Klansman from beating his wife, Father Field received a note from the Klan saying they were going to shoot him. "I backed off for a couple days," he said in 2000. "But then I said 'I'm not going to let them scare me' and went about my work." A year later he got another note saying they (the Klan) had been observing him and they thought he was doing OK. With his wry humor, he said, "Gee, if the Klan likes me, I must be doing something wrong!"

Those he ministered to would strongly disagree. To them "Father Tom" had a heart as large as the rural countryside he loved and ministered in.

When the advance of Parkinson's disease meant he could no longer serve as a mission pastor, he moved to Glenmary's Madisonville, Tenn., mission in 2000 and served as the mission's sacramental minister. Health issues forced him to move permanently to Cincinnati in 2001.