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Theodore J. Howard: Pastor of St. Mark's Parish in Shoreham who loved the Mets

The Rev. Theodore J. Howard died April 5

The Rev. Theodore J. Howard died April 5 from the coronavirus. Credit: Eileen Morello

The Rev. Theodore J. Howard was passionate about two things: God and the Mets.

In 1969, the Mets won their first World Series and celebratory fans — including Howard — took to the field, pulling up grass to hold onto as a keepsake. Later, when Howard was stationed at the new parish of St. Gerard Majella in Port Jefferson Station, he saw an opportunity to merge his two passions.

“It was a new rectory and they didn’t have any grass, so he took the grass and sod from Shea Stadium and put it on the front lawn of the rectory,” said Howard’s brother, Jim, of Williston Park.

Howard, a rock and roll fan who devoted nearly 55 years of his life to ministry, died on April 5 from the coronavirus. He was 81.

In 1988, he was appointed pastor of St. Mark’s Parish in Shoreham, where he would lead the congregation for 24 years.

Howard was born Jan. 20, 1939, to James and Florence Howard, who took their two sons to mass at Notre Dame Parish in New Hyde Park every week. The boys attended Chaminade High School. Howard was ordained as a priest on May 29, 1965.

He began his ministry as an associate pastor of St. Dominic in Oyster Bay, later serving at St. Gerard Majella and St. Joseph's Church in Ronkonkoma before heading to Shoreham.

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Howard was the kind of pastor who would “stop on a dime to pray with someone” and ordered boxes of cards featuring a smiling Jesus to give to everyone he met, said Eileen Morello, a St. Mark’s congregant.

“He would form relationships, he would get to know people,” said Morello, of Wading River. “He was really one of the good guys. He was the real deal.”

That emphasis on relationships took center stage with Religion and People and Adults Coming Together to Share, two programs Howard implemented at St. Mark’s that continue today.

RAP, for teens, and ACTS, for adults, met in the homes of various parishioners and allowed members an opportunity to explore their Catholic faith and discuss their struggles.

“Anything that was said in that RAP room stayed in that room, so the bond was tremendous,” said Morello, a RAP leader since the program’s inception in 1989. “The kids would talk about anything they wanted. They didn’t want to talk about religion but if they had a problem, they knew God was on their side. The leader steered them in that direction.”

Howard is also credited with overseeing the church’s expansion, which included adding a center for events and making the building accessible to the disabled. He himself was able to benefit from this forward thinking; in the later years of his ministry, Howard would celebrate Mass using a walker, sitting atop a bar stool so he could be seen by parishioners.

After he retired in 2012, Howard continued to stay engaged in ministry. Upon moving to the Atria in South Setauket, he held weekly Mass for residents and their families, in addition to holding a Mass for the retired Daughters of Wisdom in Sound Beach and hearing confession at St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River.

“He just loved it. He loved his life and being a priest,” said his sister-in-law Maureen Howard. “He knew how to speak with people and let them know God loved them and that he loved them. He had a very good, full life and was loved in return.”

In addition to his brother and sister-in-law, Howard is survived by his cousins. A memorial will be held at a future date.

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