Father Joseph A. Fahy, CP, ThD
died: January 22, 2007
Father Joseph Augustine Fahy died peacefully at Newnan Hospital, Newnan, Georgia on Monday afternoon, 22 January 2007 after a short illness. The son of Joseph A. Fahy and Mary Virginia Yancey Fahy, Father Fahy was born 14 September 1928 in Washington DC. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in the nation’s capital in 1946. He received his BA from Georgetown University in 1950.
He then entered the Passionist Fathers and Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious community dedicated to popular preaching of parish missions and retreats and compassionate service of the poor. After a year of novitiate, he professed his vows at Saint Paul of the Cross Monastery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on 17 July 1951. After completion of his theological studies, Father Fahy received an MA in theology from Saint Michael’s Seminary, Union City, New Jersey in 1956. Bishop Cuthbert O’Gara, a missionary bishop in China, ordained him to the Catholic priesthood on 28 April 1956 at Saint Michael’s Monastery Church, Union City, New Jersey.
As a young priest, Father Fahy was sent to Ponce in Puerto Rico to learn Spanish. A gifted linguist, he not only was fluent in Spanish, but also studied Portuguese, French, Latin, and Russian. He received an MA in Latin American History at New York University in 1973 and a ThM in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1978. Father Fahy specialized in liberation theology and Latino church history at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard awarded him a Doctorate in Theology in 1983. His dissertation, “The Antislavery Thought of Jose Agustin Caballero, Juan Jose Diaz de Espada and Felix Varela, in Cuba, 1791-1823,” is still considered the definitive study in Cuban church history and antislavery theology. A life-long scholar in Newman studies, Father Fahy studied under Professor Eamon Duffy at Oxford University. He was a member of the Venerable John Henry Newman Association. He was also a member of The Catholic Theological Society of America and of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians (ACHTUS). The Association of Hispanic Priests of the U.S. honored him for his work among Latinos in 2004.
Father Fahy was dedicated to the poor. He worked among Cubans and migrant workers in Palm Beach and Martin Counties in Florida from 1973 to 1977. He ministered in the Hispanic Apostolate at Saint Michael’s Monastery Parish in Union City, New Jersey and Saint Gabriel Parish, in Brighton, Massachusetts. He was a missionary in Honduras, taught seminarians at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, New Jersey and Saint Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary, Boynton Beach, Florida, and deacons in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Father Fahy had deep roots in Georgia. His father, a native of Rome, was a devout Catholic and his mother a devoted Methodist. A great grandfather was a doctor in the Confederate Army and an uncle was a judge during Depression years. Hannah Fahy, his aunt and godmother, was a friend of the Catholic activist, Dorothy Day. As Sister Peter Claver, a Missionary Servant of the Blessed Trinity, she ministered to prisoners well into her 90s and died at 102.
Father Fahy served in the Hispanic Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Atlanta from 1983 to 1987 and from 1989 to the time of his death. He visited Cuban detainees in Atlanta’s Federal Penitentiary, was a human rights activist, and served communities in Canton, Lawrenceville, and Atlanta. The Atlanta Constitution published thirty-six of his letters on liberation theology, the plight of Cuban prisoners, the Hispanic presence in Georgia, the death penalty, poverty, and immigration.