Former Atlanta Serran, Father Philip Grant Dies
Published: January 5, 2006
CHARLESTON, S.C.—Father Philip Grant of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., who was active in the Serra Clubs of metro Atlanta in the 1990s as a lay businessman and a member of St. Patrick’s Church in Norcross, died Dec. 30, 2005. He was 65.
Father Grant, who had had a successful career in business, fulfilled a lifelong dream when he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in June 2004 at the age of 63, according to his friends in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, he remained hopeful in the face of this illness and at the time of his death, said Bishop Robert J. Baker of Charleston.
The funeral Mass was celebrated Jan. 3 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston where he was serving as a parochial vicar. Burial was at Holy Cross Cemetery.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated in Norcross Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick’s by pastor Father Thomas Hennessy.
“Father Phil Grant gave me and his brother priests a great witness to hope in his approach to death,” said Bishop Baker. “He always carried that spirit in the midst of the terminal illness he faced and most especially in his last days in the prayerful, positive spirit he witnessed to us. He actually asked that the prayers of commendation be prayed so that he could hear them before he lost consciousness. He taught us all how to face life and how to face death, knowing the Lord is close to us always.”
Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, pastor of the Cathedral, said that Father Grant’s whole outlook was positive.
“His way of looking at death was different from what you would expect; he wasn’t afraid,” he said. “He wanted to offer his life to the Lord for vocations to the priesthood. He was looking at it as a journey; he was going from here to there, and he was happy about that. You almost wanted to say, ‘OK, let’s walk together.’ It’s very sad when you lose somebody, but he was very positive about his entrance into heaven.”
Msgr. Roth said that Father Grant loved being a priest and gave excellent homilies that he spent a lot of time preparing each week.
“Before he was ill there was never a call he wouldn’t take; he was happy to do it,” he said. “He had a tremendous love for the priesthood and a tremendous faith.”
Father Grant was born Oct. 18, 1940, in the Irish neighborhood of Boston known as “Southie,” the son of Wilmon and Mary McConville Grant, both of whom lived to see him ordained as a transitional deacon. He was a graduate of California Coast University in Santa Ana and received bachelor of science and master’s degrees in business administration. He worked in sales and in food processing equipment where he held several patents. He initially was accepted in 1999 for formation to become a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, but friends in the Serra Clubs encouraged him to pursue the priesthood.
He was a founding member and president of the Greater Northeast Atlanta Serra Club and Serran Mary Elkins, who served at the time as president of the North Metro Club, said when he told her he had been recommended for the diaconate, she asked him, “Phil, have you ever considered the priesthood?”
“He said ‘all my life,’” she recalled. “I said I would pray for him.”
After he went through a transition period, he let formation director Deacon Loris Sinanian know he felt a call to the priesthood and withdrew from the Atlanta program. With the support of Archbishop John F. Donoghue, he found in Charleston a diocese that accepted his late-in-life candidacy for the priesthood.
Father Grant graduated from Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., and was ordained June 5, 2004, at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. His ministry included assignments as parochial vicar and administrator pro tem at Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. He was assigned to the Cathedral in January 2005.
Father Thomas Schmitt, dean of men at Blessed John XXII Seminary, said he was “a man who was very practical and also very prayerful, which is a nice combination.”
“He was so happy to become a priest … His faith was a real, vibrant faith,” Father Schmitt said.
“He was a workaholic in the Serra Clubs,” said Serran Joe Krygiel, now archdiocesan Secretary for Catholic Charities. “He was so happy to be serving the church as a priest. He finally achieved what he wanted, and then God called him home.”
Father Grant is survived by three sisters, Mary Davenport of Avon, Mass., Madonna Davey of Easton, Mass., and Patricia Hurley of Denver; two brothers, Kevin of Vero Beach, Fla., and Wilmon of New Hampshire; and several nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Building Fund, 120 Broad St., Charleston, SC 29401.