In Memoriam: Fr. Michael D. Whalen, C.M.

Fr. Whalen at the Pulpit
June 4, 2020

Born: March 14, 1955
Died: June 2, 2020

Fr. Michael D. Whalen, C.M., Associate Professor of Theology at St. John’s University, died on Tuesday, June 2 of cancer at Long Island Jewish Hospital. He was 65 years old and lived in Murray House, the residence of the Vincentian Community on the Queens campus.

Fr. Whalen was born in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA on March 14, 1956, and attended St. Benedict’s Parish School and St Joseph’s High School in Princeton, NJ. He graduated from Niagara University with a BA in English and entered the Congregation of the Mission on July 16, 1975.  He completed his theological studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, PA, where he was ordained to the priesthood on May 28, 1983.

Fr. Whalen also completed graduate programs in Theology at St. Charles Seminary and LaSalle University in Philadelphia, PA. He earned a doctorate in sacramental and liturgical theology from Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. His priesthood was devoted to Catholic education, ranging from secondary school to seminary formation. Since 1997, Fr. Whalen was a popular member of the faculty of the Theology and Religious Studies Department in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. John’s University.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., J.C.D., D.D. the Tenth Bishop of Trenton, NJ and a classmate of Fr. Whalen remarked:

“I have known Fr. Whalen for over 50 years when we first went to the Vincentian seminary.  Since that time, we have been close friends. We did our doctoral studies at Catholic University in Washington and were later assigned together to St. John’s University. As dean, I had the pleasure of evaluating his theology teaching during those years. He was, without a doubt, one of the very best faculty members I ever observed. His death leaves a vacancy that cannot be filled in the Theology Department and in my own life. May God grant him rest and peace.”

A gifted preacher, sought after retreat director and active chaplain to the Ladies of Charity, an organization begun by St. Vincent de Paul four centuries ago. Fr. Whalen was deeply devoted to promoting education in the Catholic and Vincentian ideal. He sought to install in his students the need to “think theologically.” This was apparent in the care he showed in presiding and preaching at campus masses. There he displayed a mastery of scripture, liturgy, poetry, and storytelling.  Students showed high regard for his preaching, using social media to promote his weekly Mass with the hashtag #WhalenWednesdays.  Fr. Whalen also promoted devotion to the Blessed Mother in his ministry at the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia, where he frequently preached the Monday novena services.

Fr. Whalen is the son of the late John and Doris Whalen. He is survived by his brother John, and sisters Linda, Doris and their families. A wake will be held on Friday, June 5 from 2-7 pm at the Leo Kearns Funeral Home, 6140 Woodhaven Blvd, Rego Park, NY. Burial will be private. A memorial Mass for Fr. Whalen on campus will be scheduled at a future date.

Fr. Tri M. Duong, Superior of Murray House and a confrere of Fr. Whalen observed: “There will be an empty seat at our Vincentian family table and an even larger void in our University community. Fr. Whalen, will be missed by all.”

Expressions of condolence can be sent c/o:
Fr. Tri M. Duong, C.M. Superior
Murray House
St. John’s University
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439