Monsignor James John Cronin, the retired Roman Catholic pastor of a Carney parish who spent nearly five decades in the Baltimore area, died of stroke complications Friday at Stella Maris Hospice. He was 88.
Born in Glens Falls, N.Y., he received his seminary training at the old St. Mary's Seminary on Paca Street, where his older brother, the Rev. John Cronin, was a professor and later a speech writer for Vice President Richard M. Nixon. Another brother, Paul Cronin, also became a priest; his sister, Noelle, became a nun.
Ordained in 1945, Father Cronin was sent to St. Ursula's Parish in Parkville, where he remained for 19 years. He had a short tenure at St. Lawrence Parish in Woodlawn. He worked closely with youth groups through the Catholic Youth Organization at both locations.
In 1967, he became pastor of St. Bernardine Church on Edmondson Avenue at a time of economic and racial change in West Baltimore. He was later named a coordinator of the Urban Commission for the Western Area, a post where he assisted in the study of communities.
"He knew that if St. Bernardine's were to remain a solid parish, he would have to work hard to keep it together physically," said Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski. "He brought hard-working service to it. He had a total dedication to people."
He suffered poor health and stepped down as pastor of St. Bernadine in early 1970 and took up a temporary assignment at St. Margaret's Church in Bel Air and in a few months became pastor of a new parish, St. Isaac Jogues Church in Baltimore County.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II named Father Cronin a monsignor. In October 1994, he retired and became pastor emeritus. He lived in retirement at St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen and later at St. Joseph in Fullerton.
"He seemed to know everyone in Northeast Baltimore," said the Rev. Kevin T. Schenning, a fellow priest with whom he worked closely. "He baptized and married people. He was always being asked to officiate at 50th-anniversary Masses. He never forgot his people, and they never forgot him."
In 2006 Monsignor Cronin suffered a stroke that severely affected his ability to swallow and to speak.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. today at St. Isaac Jogues, 9215 Old Harford Road. Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien will preside.
Survivors include a sister, Margaret Cronin of Silver Spring, and nephews and nieces.