Rev. Father Brian Michael Rafferty, a retired Roman Catholic pastor who served in Ellicott City and Pasadena for many years, died of an extended illness Dec. 24 at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
He was 84 and had lived in Pasadena before moving to a Catonsville retirement community.
“He was truly one-of-a-kind man who had a tremendously huge heart and an unwavering commitment,” said Father Joshua Laws, pastor the Catholic Community of South Baltimore. “He never gave up on anyone. He shared himself in an encouraging way.”
Father Laws also said, “He was always looking for God, in people and in situations.”
Born in Baltimore and raised in Edmondson Village on Woodridge Road, he was the son of Joseph Bernard Rafferty, a Baker Whiteley Towing attorney, and his wife, Mary F. Hurley, a homemaker.
Known as Raf, he attended St. Bernardine School and evinced an interest in becoming a priest while in the eighth grade. He entered the old Saint Charles College High School and subsequently attended Saint Charles College before entering St. Mary’s College Seminary on Paca Street.
In a 2002 Maryland Gazette article, he described his upbringing as ``broad-based and open-minded,’' and this allowed him to have a great compassion and understanding of all people.
In a Catholic Review article published at the time of his retirement in 2017, Father Rafferty remembered going to the March on Washington in August 1963 to hear the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. “I Have A Dream” speech.
He later also credited his devotion to social justice to the values his parents instilled in him at an early age.
“He loved being a priest,” said Tim Janiszewski, a parishioner of Father Rafferty’s. “Joy just exuded from him and it came from his love of Jesus. Raf loved people. He had a focus on social justice too. He wanted to do what was best for people and it if wasn’t good for people, he wasn’t interested.”
According to an obituary supplied by the Baltimore Archdiocese, he was assigned to study sacred theology at the North American College in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1962.
He then became a curate at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Towson and was later named to Our Lady of Hope in Dundalk.
In 1974, he was assigned to be founding pastor to the Church of the Resurrection in Howard County after the rapidly growing parish was separated from St. Paul’s Church in Ellicott City.
In 1991, he spent a year in studies at the Washington Theological Union.
He served a year as associate pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Loch Raven Village.
Father Raffery was named pastor of Our Lady of the Chesapeake Parish in Pasadena in 1992. He retired in 2017 from Our Lady of the Chesapeake.
In the 2002 Maryland Gazette article, he said he worked in parishes with large congregations.
``The meat and potatoes of any religion is having a value system that must include justice, love and peace,’’ he said.
When a reporter asked what he liked about his work, Father Rafferty replied, “The fact that every day is different.” He added that he was present “to face the joys and sorrows along with trial and tribulations that befall every congregation.”
He said, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints and all should be welcome.”
Father Rafferty served as a member and chair of the Archdiocesan Commission for Christian Unity and also worked in Christian education for a section of the Baltimore Archdiocese.
He was a member of the Columbia Interfaith Planning Council, the Board of Managers for the Towson YMCA and the President of Ministerium, an ecumenical group in the Catonsville area. At the time of his death he was serving as a member of the Presbyteral Council.
“Raf was a theological genius and could take a deep and profound theological concept and make it palatable to a person like me,” Mr. Janiszewski said.
Mr. Janiszewski recalled that Father Rafferty enjoyed being on the water and sailed or kayaked on the Magothy River.
He also loved taking steamship cruises and often said it did not matter the destination.
He travelled to Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. He attended opera and classical music performances, including a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance last month.
He enjoyed sharing his wide knowledge of classical composers with anyone who asked.
Friends said he was known for writing to those priests who decided to leave ministry to thank them for their service and to wish them well.
Archbishop William Lori will preside at a funeral Mass at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30 at Our Lady of the Chesapeake Church, on Ventnor Road in Pasadena.
Survivors include a niece, Patricia Bruner of Ellicott City; and three cousins.