Jesuit Father Lawrence J. O’Toole died on Dec. 3, 2016. He was born on Jan. 21, 1927, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second of four children of Austin and Corinne O’Malley. He had an older sister and two younger brothers.
When Fr. O’Toole was 12 his family moved to a ten-acre property on the edge of the city. He attended local schools and while he was a senior at South High decided he wanted to become a priest (two other contemporaries from his school had become Jesuits). Uncertain about whether to enter the diocesan seminary or be deferred from military service because of childhood osteomyelitis, he entered the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester as a day student. A year and a half through an accelerated wartime program, he applied to the Jesuits and entered Shadowbrook on July 30, 1946, in a novice class of 40.
Because of his college courses, Fr. O’Toole spent only a year in the juniorate. Three years of philosophy studies followed at Weston (1949-52), relieved by chemistry courses at Boston College. Regency consisted of one year teaching chemistry at Fairfield Prep and two years of graduate study at B.C., resulting in an M.S. degree. He returned to Weston for theology studies and was ordained a priest on June 14, 1958.
A year later, St. George’s School in Kingston, Jamaica, needed a chemistry teacher, so Fr. O’Toole plunged into teaching at the demanding sixth-form level in the British system. These were the days when there were over 100 Jesuits on the island. Two years later, he did tertianship at Pomfret and, in 1962, returned to teaching chemistry and religion at St. George’s and being fully involved in the life of the school, including running the school sodality and organizing youth conventions for boys and girls in the five Catholic schools on the island. He returned to New England briefly from 1969-70. He went back to Jamaica for eight more years of teaching until 1978. B.C. High needed a chemistry teacher so he moved there and taught from 1978 to 1991. He enjoyed parish work on weekends and being able to devote more time to his aging parents in Worcester.
From 1991-92, he spent a sabbatical year in Berkeley, Calif., with a view to preparing himself to work in retreat ministry. He did this for a year at Campion Renewal Center, in Weston, Mass. A pastor in Billerica, Mass., needed help and Fr. O’Toole worked as his assistant for eight years until the pastor retired. A two-year stint as a hospital chaplain in Boston ended after a serious biking accident and a broken hip, which required long months of therapy and convalescence. In 2003, he was asked to return to B.C. High as minister of the community, a job he loved, he said, as it involved helping his fellow Jesuits.
In 2007, he moved to Campion Center, where did occasional parish ministry until failing health limited his activity.