The Funeral Mass for Reverend Monsignor Thomas Paul Hadden was celebrated Thursday, October 11, 2012, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Raleigh. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge was Principal Celebrant with Reverend Monsignor Gerald L. Lewis the Homilist. Approximately 50 priests concelebrated, with eleven deacons in attendance.
Msgr. Hadden, 83, died Monday, October 8 in Southern Pines, following a brief illness.
Msgr. Hadden was born May 31, 1929, in Raleigh, educated in seminaries in Mississippi and Indiana and at the North American College in Rome, where he was the first African American seminarian to enroll at the school. He was ordained to the Priesthood in Rome on December 20, 1958.
Born to Reverend Thomas Gary and Clarice Hadden, Msgr. Hadden, at the age of 12, informed his father, who was pastor of St. Paul’s AME Church in Raleigh, that he wanted to become a Catholic. He said his parents did not object, and he became a Catholic in eighth grade, while a student at St. Monica’s Catholic School in Raleigh.
When he heard God’s call to priesthood, the only seminary in the South that would accept African Americans for formation was St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where he enrolled in 1946. In his homily, Msgr. Lewis noted the challenges Msgr. Hadden faced in his life and how, through faith, he met each one successfully.
“For Thomas Paul Hadden,” Msgr. Lewis said, “it was a struggle from the day he left his family for the Mississippi coast to the day of his death in Southern Pines. His was the struggle of being the trail blazer; for he was the first man of color to be a priest in our state.”
Among his pastoral assignments, Msgr. Hadden served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Newton Grove, St. Paul Church and St. Joseph Church in New Bern, St. Joseph in Raleigh, Rector at Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Mary Church in Wilmington. He also served as Vicar for African Ancestry Catholics from 1988 until his retirement from that position in August 2011.
Msgr. Lewis recalled that one of Msgr. Hadden’s biggest challenges came with his assignment by Bishop Vincent S. Waters as pastor of both a white and black parish in New Bern in the 1960s. “In New Bern, he suffered disrespect and rejection, yet held his head high and went forward with his dedication to the people he was called to serve. He ministered to all, even those who had first rejected him, and he came to be loved and respected,” Msgr. Lewis added. “His patience, his kindness, his wisdom won the hearts of his people.”
In his remarks, Bishop Burbidge said Msgr. Hadden provides an example and witness in our lives. “Throughout a life with many obstacles, Msgr. Hadden always said 'yes' to the Lord’s will for him. Perhaps the best way to honor his memory is for each of us to renew that yes in our own lives. He loved the Priesthood dearly,” Bishop Burbidge said. “Another way to honor him is to pray each day that this Diocese will be blessed with more priests to serve as he did, and an increase in vocations to Consecrated Life.”
Msgr. Hadden was buried in the Hadden family plot at the Carolina Biblical Gardens Cemetery in Garner.
Read Msgr. Lewis’ homily