Fr. Tom Craig, dedicated pastor and mission worker, dies at 66

by Susan Moses

North Texas Catholic

January 7, 2019

Father Tom Craig (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

FORT WORTH — Father Thomas James Craig kept the various diplomas he earned in a box, but he framed his baptismal certificate and displayed it in his office. “That’s the only one that counts,” he explained to visitors.

The kind, humble man who served 36 years as a priest for the Diocese of Fort Worth died at the age of 66 on Jan. 5 after a brief illness.

Fr. Craig will lie in state at Thompson's Harveson & Cole Funeral Home, 702 8th Ave., from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 8.

A vigil is scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, 5819 W. Pleasant Ridge Road in Arlington.

Bishop Michael Olson will preside at a Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. at St. Vincent de Paul, where Fr. Craig served as pastor for 15 years.

Internment is planned for St. Michael’s Cemetery in Henrietta at a later date.

Fr. Craig will be remembered for being a gentle, compassionate pastor and a dedicated mission worker.

Many longtime St. Vincent de Paul parishioners remembered that Fr. Craig was very generous with his time, dropping anything to visit the sick or to comfort someone during a difficult time.

“He’d go to the hospital at 2 a.m. and stay for two hours. Even on his day off, he would sit with someone who had lost a family member or visit the hospital,” said Pru Brett, who described her family as “lucky” to be close to Fr. Craig.

Linda Reilly, who worked with Fr. Craig in the church office, remembered the amazement of a man who Fr. Craig visited in the hospital the day after cancer surgery. “And I’m not even Catholic,” said the man, whose wife was a parishioner.

Fr. Craig became pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in 2001, a challenging time for the parish, according to John Pearson, who served as business manager during Fr. Craig’s years.

“We had just doubled the square footage, increased seating from 900 to 1,600, added a chapel and completed the gym. Fr. Tom had the job of paying for it all,” Pearson recalled.

“He did a fabulous job. He kept people in the seats and he educated the kids, so they have returned to the parish after college,” Pearson continued.

When Fr. Craig came to St. Vincent de Paul, he was considerate and respectful, getting to know the people and the parish before making any changes.

Early in his days at the parish, he joined a group of parishioners who golfed on Tuesdays. Even after Fr. Craig received a new assignment in 2016, he continued to golf every Tuesday and “was still a pastor to us,” Pearson said.

Fr. Craig also enjoyed photography, travel, and woodworking.

Fr. Tom Craig presents about the Missionary Childhood Association at St. George Catholic School in Fort Worth in 2018. (NTC/Jayme Shedenhelm)

 

As pastor of St. Vincent de Paul, Fr. Craig joined the parish’s mission work in Olancho, Honduras after Hurricane Mitch. His passion for mission work grew, and he became the chairman of the Diocesan Mission Council in 2011. In 2016, Fr. Craig became the full-time Director of the Propagation of the Faith and Director of the Diocesan Mission Council.

“He was good at bringing out people’s best,” said Colleen Cargile, who served on the Diocesan Mission Council with him. He added structure, goals, and evaluations to the council, she said.

“He strengthened the team by bringing other people in. Anyone with passion and interest could participate. He was really good at developing opportunities, but it was never about him, always about the mission,” Cargile said.

Fr. Craig was known throughout the diocese for asking, “Raise your hand if you are a missionary.” He then explained that anyone who is baptized is called to be a missionary, and the mission fields may be your own neighborhood.

Born on May 25, 1952 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Tom was the oldest of nine children of Louise and James Craig.

At age 6, the family moved to Wichita Falls, where he was a member of Sacred Heart Parish. He graduated from Notre Dame Catholic School in 1970, then enrolled at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.

In 1973, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and served for six years while continuing his education at Tarrant County Junior College, where he earned an associate’s degree in electronics technology in 1975.

During a college retreat, Fr. Craig asked the Lord in prayer “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” Hearing a call to become a priest, he continued his education at Texas Christian University, where he majored in philosophy and religion.

In 1978, he was admitted to study for the priesthood by the Diocese of Fort Worth and enrolled at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. He was ordained a deacon in 1981 and assigned to St. Ann Parish in Burleson. Upon his graduation from seminary, he returned to St. Ann for his priestly ordination on June 26, 1982.

Fr. Craig served as associate pastor at St. Philip Parish in Lewisville until 1986, when he was assigned as pastor to the parishes of Jesus of Nazareth in Albany, Sacred Heart of Jesus in Breckenridge, St. Boniface in Dodson Prairie, St. Francis of Assisi in Graford, and San Patricio in Throckmorton.

He also served as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Carrollton and Sacred Heart Parish in Muenster.

Fr. Craig is preceded in death by his father James Prescott Craig, nephew Joseph Thomas Craig, and niece Holly Victoria McBride. He is survived by his loving mother, Louise Elizabeth (Barrick), five brothers: John Craig (Margie), Paul Craig (Connie), Donald Craig (Karen), Daniel Craig (Tracey), Christopher Craig (Shari) and three sisters: Judy Koetter (David), Julia McBride (Joe) and Maryellen Burns (Andy), two goddaughters: Katherine Phennell, and Rachel Buckley, 25 nieces and nephews, and 24 great nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers please make donations to the Pontifical Mission Society at www.propfaith.net.

During a September interview with the NTC, Fr. Craig was asked about his favorite part of being a priest. He responded, “Community, and being able to celebrate with them in all the different ways. Of course, Sunday Eucharist and all the sacraments.”

Fr. Craig leaves behind many communities who appreciate the gracious and caring way he celebrated with them.

“There are hundreds of people he kept personal contact with. They loved his pleasant manner and his calmness. He had the ability to laugh when we needed to laugh, and to be solemn when that’s what was needed,” Pearson, the former business manager of St. Vincent de Paul, remembered.

FORT WORTH — Father Thomas James Craig kept the various diplomas he earned in a box, but he framed his baptismal certificate and displayed it in his office.

Published (until 1/7/2035)
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