Centenarian Priest Speaks of Bells and Prayer – Oral History Interview


Monsignor Charles Monaghan, the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, turned 100 on March 31, 2015. In a 2007 taped interview, Msgr. Monaghan spoke of his earliest desire to be a priest, which came in the form of bells at Ascension of Our Lord Church.  Click the link below to listen to him describe this memory, or read the excerpt below.

And I remember going into the church and being there for the whole Mass. Now she had to carry my brother in her arms and my sister just about walking, and I was about 4 years old. 4-1/2, 4 years, and I remember seeing a priest, and I remember the Mass itself, very quiet, there weren’t that many people in church. This was the basement of the present church, and when it was all over, I said to my mother I’m gonna be a priest. And she says “How can you figure that out?” and I says “well, did you notice that the priest, when he put his knee on the ground a bell rang, and when he raised his hand, another bell? And I said I would like to do that.”


Msgr. Monahan was quoted in an April 14, 2015 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer (http://articles.philly.com/2015-04-15/news/61146810_1_priests-retirement-age-bevilacqua) as saying “I’m totally inactive, except for my prayers.” He mentioned in a 2007 taped interview that learning to improve prayer life is a key challenge facing Catholics today, especially children. He said that if we want to be Christians, if we want Christ living in us, we have to learn from Him, and His devotion to his own father.  Click the link below to listen to his thoughts on prayer, or read the except below.

We have to learn how to say prayers together. But we have to learn how to say the prayers individually, and hungrily. When children have problems we have to teach them to kneel down first and say their prayers. We want them to learn to find answers through prayer. Through prayer – I think prayer, and the teaching of prayer, and allowing a child to grow into the need for prayer, and to find out that in their needs, prayer comes first. Prayer comes first. You have to get a closer relationship with our divine Lord Himself, and that has to come through prayer and the sacraments. That’s the beginning, anyway.


Priest and Rosary Calm Tension – Oral History Interview

msgr devlin picture

Msgr. Devlin, in an oral history interview from 2008, reflects on his involvement with the Philadelphia Police Department​ as they joined forces to calm tensions in the inner city. Msgr. Devlin was later appointed Director of the Cardinal’s Commission on Human Relations.

Devlin: George Fencl, (Chief Inspector and head of the Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit), would call me. And one time we were up there and I had to bring in Spanish priests you know. And they were good. They’d come out, you know and we decided that one way of calming the situation down was to have a rosary. We’d had a priest say a rosary in the vernacular in Spanish and then things would—and I still remember—one guy said, “All right, we know you’re a policeman because the kind of belt you’re wearing.” (laughter) I remember then a bottle going zoom—right past my ears. Things were getting panicky, you know. It was very quiet while everybody was saying the rosary. But then it started to stir up again and George Fencl comes up behind me and says, “Monsignor, you think you could say another rosary?” (laughter) 

Interviewer: Thank you for keeping the lid on that simmering violence in the neighborhood.

 Devlin: Yeah, we had, we developed a technique, with Monsignor Dowling and myself and a group, a particular cadre of priests, that you know, we could call on to do this anywhere. And we were in every area of the city. We were in North Philly, we were in the suburbs, we were in South Philly, you know, and all I had to do was call them and they’d be there. I remember a guy and he had his fists right up in my nose, like that. And he says, “You get back in your pulpit! You don’t belong out here. Arrrr arrrr.”  (laughter) And then finally when things settled down, he says, “Father, you want to come home and have dinner with me and my wife?” (laughter)