Msgr. Scannell

The Life of Msgr. Scannell

Thomas Patrick Scannell was born Sept. 19, 1910, in Brooklyn, N.Y., one of seven children of Daniel and Anna Scannell. He attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., on a football scholarship. At Holy Cross he met Louis Flaherty, who would later become Bishop Flaherty of the Richmond Diocese. Msgr. Scannell was impressed by the family’s close ties to the Church and parish life while visiting the Flaherty home in Norfolk. He was thinking about a vocation to the priesthood by his senior year in college.

He attended the North American College in Rome where he was ordained on March 19, 1937, just a few months after his seminary classmate, the late Msgr. Francis L. Bradican.

His first assignment was as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk from 1937-41. He moved to Arlington as assistant pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish from 1941-43. He served as an Army chaplain from 1943-46 in England during World War II.

Msgr. Scannell returned to St. Charles Parish as assistant pastor following his wartime service. His first pastorate was at St. Mary of Sorrows Parish in Fairfax Station from 1951-53. During this time, he was appointed the first director of Catholic Charities of Northern Virginia, a position he held for five years.

He was named founding pastor of St. Michael Parish in 1953. One of his major accomplishments was building a modern, octagonal church that seats 1,200 people. He participated in the parish's 50th anniversary celebration in November 2003 along with Bishop Loverde and former pastor Father Jerome R. Daly (see photo above).

Msgr. Scannell had the foresight over the years to purchase vast amounts of land in Fairfax County for the Richmond Diocese that was later developed into parishes. Young priests have spoken of him as a "priest’s priest," someone they seek out to hear about the challenges and joys of the priesthood and parish life.

Msgr. Scannell retired from St. Michael Parish in 1986. He lived at St. Luke Parish in McLean until 1993, when he moved to St. Agnes Parish in Arlington. He celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for the 65th anniversary of his ordination with students and parents at St. Agnes Church on March 19, 2002.

In the time it took Msgr. Scannell to slowly walk from his chair to the lectern for his homily, it seemed as though 25 years dropped away, judging by his strong, resonating voice.

"Well, children, fancy seeing me here," he said in his native Brooklyn voice. "I surprise myself. But, I’m very glad to be here for many reasons. I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad to be who I am and I’m glad to be able to talk with you and … to give you some advice." He told them it was going to be the same advice he always gives them.

"Almost 100 years ago, somebody gave me some advice," Msgr. Scannell said. "I’m sure it was my mother. I was only two or three years old. She told me I should never forget something — that I was a child of God. What I’m telling you today is the simple truth."