Paulist Fr. John Foley is a practicing canon lawyer who advises priests experiencing difficulty in their lives and ministries.
Fr. Foley served as vice president of the Paulist Fathers from 2010 to 2014.
With a doctorate in canon law from Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Foley has been particularly involved in the application of the Dallas Charter (the U.S. Bishops regulations regarding abuse in the church) in various diocese and religious communities.
Known as “Sean” to family and friends, Fr. Foley was born in Dublin, Ireland, and raised in New York City.
He first met the Paulist Fathers as an altar server at Notre Dame Parish in Manhattan through visiting Paulist Fr. Thomas McCormack, “He was a very nice man and a very impressive preacher," Fr. Foley recalled.
Fr. Foley then met more Paulist Fathers while attending Power Memorial Academy, a high school run by the Irish Christian Brothers.
Power Memorial was located just a few blocks from the Paulist motherhouse in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and the Paulists had a strong affiliation with the school. Fr. Foley recalls the Paulists as being very approachable. Fr. James McQuade, who lives today in Paulist motherhouse in New York, was chaplain at Power Memorial when Fr. Foley was a student.
The future Paulist studied for two years at the Paulist minor seminary – St. Peter’s College in Baltimore – after graduating from high school. He then entered the Paulist novitiate at Mount Paul in New Jersey for one year before heading to Washington, D.C., to attend St. Paul’s College for six years.
Fr. Foley was ordained a Paulist priest on May 1, 1967, at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.
After ordination, he served St. Paul the Apostle Parish for eight years. Following a brief assignment to Austin, TX, he joined the Paulist formation team at St. Paul’s College, and then served as pastor and superior of Good Shepherd Church in New York City.
Later, he served as rector and superior of Santa Susanna Church in Rome, during which time he also served as the Paulist liaison with the Vatican. Next he served as pastor and superior of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco before taking a yearlong sabbatical to complete his doctorate.
In 2000, Fr. Foley became the director of the Mount Paul Retreat Center in Oak Ridge, N.J., while simultaneously serving as the superior of the Paulist motherhouse in New York City from 2004 to 2008.
“From childhood, I was captivated by the spirit of missionary priests who came to our parish,” said Fr. Foley. “I have found the Paulists to be a great group of men with whom to live and share a mission.”
Paulist Fr. John Foley behind Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul II) during a special Mass at the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome.
These three videos were created in early 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fr. Foley's ordination to the priesthood: