Obituary: Reverend Thomas F. Madden

| 02/23/2024

By: The Good Newsroom

The beloved pastor of St. Peter-St. Mary Church in Haverstraw, Father Madden entered eternal life on February 21, 2024, surrounded by his family

The beloved pastor of St. Peter-St. Mary Church in Haverstraw, Father Thomas F. Madden entered internal life on February 21, 2024, surrounded by his family

With sadness, but with true Christian hope in the Resurrection of our Lord, we share the news of the death of:

The Reverend Thomas F. Madden, 78
Pastor, Church of St. Peter/St. Mary of the Assumption, Haverstraw

Born October 30, 1945
Ordained Priest December 11, 1976

Father Thomas Madden, 78, of Saint Peter and Saint Mary Church in Haverstraw, entered eternal life peacefully on the evening of February 20, 2024, with his sister by his side.

Known to his family as Tommy, he was born on October 30, 1945, in Washington, DC, the fifth of John and Mary Madden’s eight children. Tommy grew up in White Plains where he and his family formed their wonderfully loving and dysfunctional bond that remains stronger than ever to this day.

Tommy attended elementary and middle school at Saint Bernard in White Plains, and at an early age wanted to be a locomotive engineer. This dream passed around the time that he decided to try how sand would work in the engine of his elder brother Dennis’s deluxe train set.

In first grade, he’d get to class early and hide in the coat closet until mid-morning, where he delighted in jumping out to surprise everyone. At a parent-teacher meeting, his teacher assured his mother, “Don’t worry, there’s one in every family.”

He also attended Saint Bernard Church where he was a model altar boy, and for all Tommy’s goofing around, when it came to being an altar boy he was serious about that stuff. As an altar boy, Tommy was tasked with spending hours kneeling at the altar in adoration. While it was a chore for the other boys, Tommy felt drawn to the Eucharist in the open tabernacle. He felt a humbling reverence for the Eucharist to the point that Tommy denied himself communion for years, though he attended Mass frequently.

At Archbishop Stepinac High School, Tommy began what became a lifelong friendship with Pete Tierney. Together they were on the debate team, where they debated such hot topics of the time as the effects of Coca-Cola on the body. Tommy and Pete’s team made an animated debate against Coca-Cola where they showed how the soda stripped a rusty nail clean over the course of their argument. Tommy continued with such an animated spirit his entire life.

Tommy also worked on the stage crew for the Stepinac Theater. He was only caught with the curtain up once, and he was wearing black and ran off pretty fast so he’s pretty sure nobody saw him. 

Tommy excelled at Stepinac High School to the point where he was able to earn the grades to follow his brother Dennis to the University of Notre Dame. Pete Tierney, as it would happen also followed his elder brother to Notre Dame, and the two decided to room together and continued to do so for the next four years. In four years of enduring Tommy’s lovingly irreverent humor, Pete surely earned himself a lifetime of absolution.

At Notre Dame Tommy and Pete roomed together at Farley Hall where they befriended John Gregory and Bob Reidy. Tommy and Pete were also members of the Blue Circle Honor Society where they befriended John Dempsey. Together they all forged a rare friendship that endured through Tommy’s final days, when they travelled to be by his side and stayed at his bed like an honor guard. 

As described by friends Tommy, “could be the life of the party.” And when speaking with Tommy he did not merely listen, but “gave all of himself to you.”

Perhaps proudest of all, Tommy was a member of Notre Dame’s famed “Meat Squad,” tasked with protecting the band from their rowdy chorus of followers on pep rally nights. You didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the “Meat Squad.”

It was at Notre Dame that Tommy felt the need to deny himself communion lifted. One day senior year when asked by Pete Tierney what he was going to do after graduation, Tommy replied, “I’m going into the seminary to become a priest.” Years later he said it was the first moment the thought had crossed his mind, but he knew it felt right.

Tommy’s Notre Dame fandom is something of a legend in itself as he could grab the attention of a crowded room as he yelled at the TV during an N.D. interception, deep pass, or long run.

Tommy graduated from Notre Dame in 1967 and entered Saint Joseph’s Seminary in the Bronx, following in the footsteps of his eldest brother, Jay, who had also joined the priesthood. Tommy enjoyed his time in the seminary but watching the evening news one night he felt uneasy. He saw on television the devastating effects of war, poverty, and hunger. Tommy felt that the seminary offered him a degree of security and comfort that didn’t feel right and so he left.

Instead of waiting around to be drafted for Vietnam, Tommy decided to volunteer for the draft and entered the United States Army. He trained at Fort Dix in New Jersey and then later at Fort Bragg in North Carolina where in fewer than two years he became an artillery instructor. How he learned enough about artillery in that amount of time that he was equipped to instruct others God only knows. 

Tommy also spent time in the Army teaching metallurgy and relished warning the soldiers that if they were ever handling kryptonite to never ever leave it inside of a phone booth. He also enlisted in officers’ school (a move he later admitted felt “big-headed” of himself). His orders to go to Vietnam were canceled, his brother Dennis having already served three tours.

After the Army Tommy went back to school at William and Mary in Virginia looking to earn a Master’s and PhD, eventually aiming to become a teacher or a professor somewhere. Lying in his dorm on a perfect spring morning, Tommy heard the birds outside, he heard the rustling of the leaves on the grass and walkways, he felt the breeze come through his window and flow over him in bed and he knew in that moment that God wanted him to be a priest.

Tommy entered the seminary again in 1973, this time for good. This time in the seminary Tommy felt a deep sense of peace, and he knew that he was in the right place.

During two summers in the seminary, Tommy was sent to Colombia to immerse himself in the Spanish language. The second summer was spent in the mountains of Colombia where his transportation was a donkey. One night after dark he had to ride the donkey home on the mountain, he couldn’t see a thing and just prayed the donkey would get him back safely. It did. 

Tommy became fluent in Spanish to the point that he was not only able to celebrate Mass in Spanish, but he was able to translate his characteristic humor into another language. Some joked that he was even funnier in Spanish. 

Tommy was ordained a priest in 1976 and spent his early years at Saint Emeric in the Bronx. It was at Saint Emeric that Tommy started a teenage group with Sister Amy. Going on trips from ballgames to Cape Cod, the kids loved Tommy and Sister Amy. Often it was hard to tell whether it was Tommy, Sister Amy, or the kids that were having the most fun. Some of those kids, now grown, even visited him in his last weeks, all these decades later.

Later Tommy worked at Saint Lucy’s in the Bronx, where the kids would yell “Hey Father Tom!” if they happened to see him passing in hallways or on the street. 

Through his work with the Sisters of Divine Compassion Tommy met his dear friend, Lauren McCloud. Lauren became like family, and indeed was a fixture at family birthdays and milestones in the following years.

Tommy became the spiritual director at Saint Joseph’s where he had studied. At Saint Joseph’s he met Tom Morrette and formed a lasting friendship.

Tommy went on to become the spiritual director at Saint John Neumann in the Bronx where he worked with Bishop Edmund Whalen, who was especially supportive during Tommy’s last months. He was so loved that Father Rich Smith once said they “would genuflect when they passed Tommy’s door.” 

In 2001, Tommy was given his own parish, the famous Old Saint Patrick’s in Little Italy. In only seven months at Old Saint Patrick’s Tommy became beloved by parishioners. As a history buff, Tommy was excited to be working at the famed church.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tommy travelled into Manhattan where he spent days blessing the remains of victims.

In 2002, Tommy was sent to the Church of Saint Peter in Haverstraw, eventually becoming Saint Peter and Saint Mary. It was there that Tommy found a home to do his life’s work and a parish community that he loved. Tommy took great joy in planning and overseeing the renovation of the entire church.

At Saint Peter and Saint Mary, he worked closely over the years with parochial vicars, staff, and parishioners. Matilde Aurelia Lopez and her family served the parish alongside Tommy for 22 years. 

An avid traveler, Tommy enjoyed spending time at his family’s house in Cape Cod. But his travels took him far and wide. From visiting long-lost relatives in Ireland to last year getting to go on a trip of a lifetime to Rome and Jerusalem with a group of parishioners, along with his sister Sarah and her husband Dominick. 

Tommy had an engaging personality that remained until his last days. Always quick with a joke, his trademark dry humor could confuse, frustrate, and induce side-splitting laughter all at the same time. Remembering the names of people he encountered was especially important to Tommy, and people would be astonished that Tommy remembered their names after only brief interactions.

Although Tommy had no children, he leaves behind a small army of nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews, all of whom, with due respect to all their other wonderful uncles, would name Tommy without question as their favorite. As one recently put it, “God couldn’t let Tommy have his own kids because he would have put every other father to shame.”

A fixture in Thanksgiving Day family football games, Tommy could throw, catch, and talk trash with the best of them. He was also known to mix it up on the basketball court, unafraid of the bump and shove in the low post, using elbows and hips in some moves he no doubt picked up from his days doing crowd control on the “Meat Squad.”

Known for his great jokes and great gifts, Tommy combined the two in a memorable birthday present for his nephew Sean Keogh. Sean couldn’t wait to open Tommy’s present as it had dwarfed all the other presents that day. It was to Sean’s dismay and everyone else’s delighted laughter when he opened the giant present to find an extra-large pack of Charmin double-ply toilet paper (there was of course a generous amount of cash in the birthday card).

He was one of the favorite people of anybody that got to spend time with him. Anyone who knew him well said that Tommy was the best person that they knew. For most, it wasn’t even close. 

In his final days he was surrounded by friends and family. To the point that his family had to be repeatedly told they were making too much noise, but it’s just impossible to be quiet when there’s that many people around. And there was barely enough room for them all in Tommy’s room and the waiting room combined. He was never alone as someone always volunteered to spend the night with him from Brian Deigan to Rey Lopez. 

It was only fitting as Tommy would always be the one you could count on to show up for everyone else.

His priesthood was a joy for him. His parishioners were his family. His fellow priests he embraced as brothers. He would say, “Any praise was undeserved but appreciated.” He loved and served with an open heart. May he rest in peace.

A special thank you to Cardinal Timothy Dolan for his prayers.

Tommy’s memory will be forever cherished by his adoring surviving family including his siblings, Jay Madden, Mary Madden, Ann Deigan (Bill), Jude Madden, and Sarah Madden Lanza (Dominick). His sister-in-law Rosemary Donnestad. His nieces and nephews and their significant others Maureen Madden (Al DeRosa), Dennis Madden (Terry Race), Janet Stammley (Tim Stammley), Karen (Mark) Klawin, Ken (Tracy) Donnestad, Condé Keogh (Lisa Campbell), Jean McHugh, Sean Keogh (Vicki), John Lanza (Lucia Moore), Derek Lanza (Laura), John Deigan (Silvana), and Brian Deigan. His great nieces and nephews TJ, Patrick and Melissa Lapointe, Matt (Kayla) Klawin, Samantha (Michael) Herrera, Courtney Race (Mike Kepner), Sean Madden (Layla Wojcik), Jillian and Summer Stammley, Brendan and Aidan Deigan, Mac and Emmet Keogh, Liam Keogh, Willow and Amelia Lanza, Jack and Zelda Lanza. And great-great nieces and nephews Jocelyn Clark, Mallory Wentworth, Maxwell Kepner and Everleigh Lapointe. As well as countless cousins, friends and parishioners. 

Thomas was preceded in death by his parents, John and Mary Madden, and siblings Dennis Madden Sr., his sister Kathleen Madden, and brother-in-law Al Donnestad.

In lieu of flowers please donate to Saint Peter and Saint Mary Church or to your favorite charity.

Friday, March 1, 2024, 3-7 p.m.

Church of St. Peter
115 Broadway
Haverstraw, New York 10927

Entrusted to the care of the George M. Holt Funeral Home, Haverstraw

The Most Reverend Joseph A. Espaillat, principal celebrant
The Reverend Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, homilist

Saturday, March 2, 2024, 11 a.m. [Wake 10-11 a.m.] 

Church of St. Peter
115 Broadway
Haverstraw, NY 10927

His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, presiding
The Reverend John J. Madden, SJ, principal celebrant and homilist

Burial will be at the convenience of the family.

Expressions of sympathy may be sent to Tom’s brother, Father Jay Madden, SJ, in care of:

George M. Holt Funeral Home
50 New Main St.
Haverstraw, NY 10927


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