The funeral Mass for Father Edmond J. Fitzgibbon was celebrated Sept. 26 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Shrewsbury. Father Fitzgibbon died Sept. 18. He was 85 and had been a priest for 59 years.
Born Aug. 20, 1933, in St. Louis, the second of five children, he grew up in Most Holy Name Parish in north St. Louis. He felt called to the priesthood as a youngster, just 5 or 6 years old. He was ordained by then-Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter on March 14, 1959, at the Cathedral of Saint Louis.
“That’s the only thing I thought of doing. There never really were any doubts,” Father Fitzgibbon said in 2005. “My family encouraged it. My parents were very faithful people who loved the Church.”
As a boy, Father Fitzgibbon played Mass with a miniature altar and small paten and chalice made by a prisoner at the city workhouse, where an uncle worked. “My uncle thought it would be a good gift for me,” he said. “I played with that for a while.”
In grade school, a Sister of St. Joseph sent Father Fitzgibbon and two others to see the pastor. “The pastor said, ‘Sister says you want to go to the seminary.’ We said, ‘OK, OK.’ So we went. The other two dropped out, but I was ordained,” he said.
In 48 years of active ministry, Father Fitzgibbon served in only five parishes, leaving a positive legacy at each outpost: positive for parishioners and himself, too.
“I know that priests are often influential in people’s lives. That’s very important. But I think I get as much or even more inspiration from the people of the parishes,” said Father Fitzgibbon, known lovingly by parishioners as “Father Fitz.”
Parishioners also referred to him as their “family priest,” an apt description considering priests share in parishioners’ “baptisms, marriages and deaths, all kinds of things,” he said. “You’re really involved in every aspect of their lives.”
In his first assignment, as an assistant pastor at St. Thomas of Aquin Parish in south St. Louis, the newly ordained priest helped with youth programs and coached soccer teams. He also was a chaplain at Lutheran Hospital nearby. He then became an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in 1966 and served five years before spending the final 36 years of active ministry as a pastor.
His first pastorship was at his boyhood parish, Most Holy Name, where a parishioner “remembered me as the guy who broke her front window playing ball,” he said. Father Fitzgibbon served there for nine years, 1971-80, then was assigned to St. Bartholomew Parish in Hazelwood until 1987. He was pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish for 20 years, until retiring from active ministry in 2007.
“I really found I enjoyed parish life,” said Father Fitzgibbon, who kept in touch with former parishioners. “We’re still really close, but that’s true of all the parishes. They were a part of everything (priests) did and we were a part of everything they did. They treated me like any family member.”
The relationships had an important common denominator: love of God. “I find I am able to share my faith and belief in God with people who believe in God and want the same thing,” he once said. “And they’re looking for their children to be happy and to be close to God.”
Father Fitzgibbon is suvived by a brother, Thomas, and a sister, Patricia.