John was the son of Irish immigrants, the late William and Mollie Fitzpatrick. He was born and raised in Brockton, attended Holy Cross College and St. John’s Seminary where he became ordained in 1960. He received his Master’s Degree in Deaf Studies from Boston University.
John served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve where he achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. He administered the sacraments and counseled U.S. Air Force men and women. He was deployed on active duty to multiple domestic and international U.S. Air Force Bases, including Turkey and Greenland throughout his 20 year career.
St. Brigid in Lexington was John’s first parish assignment. Fr. Fitz was passionate about civil rights, and with the blessing of their St. Brigid’s Pastor, he and Fr. Tom a fellow curate participated in the Selma Alabama Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s.
Also at St. Brigid, Fr. Fitz became interested in working with the Deaf after getting to know a parish family with deaf children. Serving the deaf community would become his lifelong passion.
In 1972 Fr. Fitz founded the Deaf Community Center (DCC) in Framingham. He transformed outbuildings into a church, community center and offices on the property of The Sisters of St. Joseph (a home for retired Nuns at Bethany Hill). The DCC offered Deaf of all faiths and ages various opportunities, including worship, religious education, communication services and community life. He helped the deaf community experience music by forming a choir, signing songs at Masses and functions.
Fr. Fitz was involved in the establishment of the New England Communication Service for the Deaf whose goal was to create better communication service between the Deaf and the hearing. This began with a talented group of deaf men who worked to adapt donated teletype machines.
Realizing there are unique requirements for housing that focuses on deaf needs (i.e. flashing lights for fire alarms, door bells, telephones, etc.), Fr. Fitz worked with state and local officials to create the Mayo House, a community living home with men that are deaf. With the Mayo House a successful reality, he went on to open the Williams House, named in honor of his oldest parishioner, Alice Williams. The Williams house was an independent apartment style living opportunity for deaf residents.
Upon his new assignment to St. Anselm’s Parish, Fr. Fitz moved DCC services and activities to Sudbury, where the members were welcomed and embraced by the parishioners.
John built a cottage in the pines of New Hampshire, it was a special gathering place for family and friends to relax and reflect. On his property he built a small Chapel open to the public for worship and meditation. John loved his dogs, Howie, Dakota and Mollie and was often seen riding with one on his motorcycle.
Fr. Fitz touched many lives throughout his life. Father attributed the untiring dedication of his many dear close friends and parishioners to the success of his endeavors.
He will be lovingly missed.
A Celebration of Father Fitzpatrick’s life will be held in the Spring. Memorials in his name may be made to New England Home for the Deaf (NEHD), Danvers, MA - www.nehd.org