The Rev. Tom Walsh claims he doesn’t have many stories to tell.
But the 84-year-old priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Osprey does indeed have stories — lots of them.
Walsh has traveled to the Holy Land and floated in the Dead Sea. He’s vacationed in 49 states. And, this year, he has reason to celebrate — it marks his 60th anniversary as a priest.
From his early grade-school days, Walsh, who was born in Chicago, always wanted to be a priest.
“It’s a lot of fun getting to know people,” he says. “Just saying hello to everybody as they’re leaving church on Sunday, enjoying all the social functions that the church has. You make an unusually large number of friends in this position.”
He begins every sermon by telling a joke, a tradition he started in the ’80s while working in New Jersey before he moved to Florida 23 years ago.
“I don’t remember how it started, but once you start, you get trapped, and if you don’t do it one Sunday, you get all kinds of complaints,” he said.
The jokes come from different sources. Sometimes, Walsh refers to Reader’s Digest. He also has a few church joke books. And, to help him out, parishioners e-mail him jokes and leave envelopes for him at the church.
“Here’s one that gets good response: A woman goes to her priest and tells him she has a winning lottery ticket, but she’s frightened to tell her husband because it might give him a heart attack,” Walsh says.
“They decide that the priest could gently break the news to him during the men’s meeting that evening. At the meeting, the priest says, ‘What would you do if you won a winning lottery ticket?’ The woman’s husband says, ‘I would give half of it to the parish.’ Then the priest had a heart attack!”
Walsh was ordained June 6, 1950. Our Lady of Mount Carmel will honor him on his anniversary date this year with a celebratory party at the church.
“It’s also the 10th anniversary of the church this year,” Walsh says. “It was exciting watching this place being built.”
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