March 7, 2014

Father Larry Crawford was known for dedication to social justice

By Sean Gallagher

Father Larry P. CrawfordFather Larry P. Crawford, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died in his sleep on Feb. 25 while in Lake Worth, Fla. He was 73.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 3 at St. Gabriel the Archangel Church in Indianapolis, where he had served as associate pastor from 1971-76 and as pastor from 1999 until his retirement in 2013.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin was the principal celebrant of the Mass. Retired Father Lawrence Richardt was the homilist.

Burial followed in the priests’ circle at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Father Crawford, ordained in 1966, served for 19 of his nearly 48 years as a priest at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish on Indianapolis’ west side. He ministered for another nine years at neighboring Holy Trinity Parish.

In the periods in which he served these faith communities, their surrounding neighborhoods were undergoing significant social changes and were often marked by growing poverty and crime.

These challenges, according to Father John McCaslin, led Father Crawford to have a passion for social justice issues.

“He had a wonderful compassion for the least among us, and was really driven to try to work for those [people],” said Father McCaslin, pastor of St. Anthony and Holy Trinity parishes in Indianapolis. “He was doing community organizing and addressing some of these issues way back early in his priesthood. There was a great passion there.”

Fathers Crawford and McCaslin ministered alongside each other in neighboring parishes from 2006-13. During that time, Father McCaslin started following in Father Crawford’s footsteps, helping to establish the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, which promotes social justice in Indianapolis neighborhoods.

The previous experience of Father Crawford in this kind of ministry proved helpful.

“He was very critical in our earliest times of helping us to articulate our vision and our core values,” said Father McCaslin.

But Father Crawford’s connection to Father McCaslin went back further than their time shared as brother priests.

Father Crawford was Father McCaslin’s pastor in the mid-1990s at St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis.

Father McCaslin was discerning a possible call to the priesthood, but was concerned about talking to his pastor about it, fearing that Father Crawford might put pressure on him to become a seminarian.

When he ended up speaking with him, those fears disappeared.

“He was very good about just talking about discernment,” said Father McCaslin. “He received me very graciously. There wasn’t any pressure. He was very supportive.”

In 1982, Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara appointed Father Crawford the first director of what was then known as the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities.

Father James Bonke, a longtime friend, noted that Father Crawford established what is now known as the Archbishop O’Meara Respect for Life Award, which is given each year on Respect Life Sunday in October to a Catholic in central and southern Indiana who has given outstanding service to the cause of life.

“Larry came to have a passion for the whole gamut of pro-life issues,” said Father Bonke, defender of the bond in the archdiocesan Metropolitan Tribunal and associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.

Father Bonke also noted how committed Father Crawford was to St. Gabriel Parish, where he served as pastor in the 14 years leading up to his retirement last July, and how much the Indianapolis West Deanery faith community appreciated him.

“When he retired last July, his final Mass was quite a tribute,” Father Bonke said. “The place was packed. They had a picnic reception afterward. There were people all over the place.”

Larry P. Crawford was born on July 26, 1940, in Owensboro, Ky., to Charles Crawford and Elizabeth (Coomes) Crawford. He was baptized on Aug. 4, 1940, in St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro and confirmed on May 5, 1947, at the former St. Catherine of Siena Church in Indianapolis.

After graduating from St. Catherine School, he received 12 years of priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

Archbishop Paul C. Schulte ordained Father Crawford a priest on May 1, 1966, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. Father Crawford celebrated his first Mass on May 8, 1966, at St. Catherine Church.

From 1966-68, he served as a high school teacher and associate pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis. He then served as associate pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Richmond from 1968-71.

Beginning in his time in Richmond, Father Crawford also ministered as chaplain of the Whitewater Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

In 1971, Father Crawford began his 19 years of service at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis. He served as its associate pastor from 1971-76.

He first served as a pastor beginning in 1976 at Holy Trinity Parish in Indianapolis, where he served until 1985.

In 1982, he was appointed the director of the archdiocesan Office of Pro-Life Activities, which had recently been established by Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara. He served in this position until 1991.

He continued his pro-life ministry after being appointed pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove in 1985, where he served until 1987.

From 1987-88, Father Crawford ministered as the pastor of the former St. Mary and St. Michael parishes in Madison while continuing to serve as director of the archdiocesan of Office of Pro-Life Activities.

That pro-life ministry continued while Father Crawford served as pastor of St. Ann Parish in Indianapolis from 1988-91.

He then served as pastor of St. Simon the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis from 1991-99.

Father Crawford returned to St. Gabriel Parish in 1999, serving as its pastor until his retirement in 2013.

Surviving are his sister, Brenda Kelly; his brother, Gary Crawford; and several nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Lung Association (www.lung.org) or to St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, 6000 W. 34th St., in Indianapolis. †

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