Jan. 12, 2024 – Fr. Damian Halligan, SJ, was born on November 14, 1933, in Jersey City, N.J., the son of John Halligan and Mary Agatha Ferguson. After graduating from Xavier High School in New York City in 1951, and from St. Peter’s College in Jersey City in 1955, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on September 7, 1955.
Fr. Halligan’s course of formation followed what was standard for a college graduate entering the New York Province at that time: two years of novitiate and one year of juniorate at St. Andrew’s (1955-58), followed by three years of philosophy at Loyola Seminary, Shrub Oak, N.Y., from 1958-61. Next came three years of regency, and for Fr. Halligan that was at St. Peter’s Prep in the city of his birth where he taught Latin and English and challenged students in intramural basketball (1961-64). After regency he moved on to four years of theological studies at Woodstock College, Md. (1964-68), where he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in theology. After his third year at Woodstock, Damian was ordained a priest at the Fordham University Church, Bronx, N.Y., on June 15, 1967.
Fr. Halligan’s first assignment after Woodstock was to parish work in Lagos, Nigeria (1968-69). However, this was at the height of the Civil War in Nigeria and remaining there to do pastoral work quickly became untenable. After only a year, he had to return to the U.S. It was then that he proceeded to do his tertianship at Auriesville, N.Y. (1969-70).
After tertianship, Fr. Halligan was assigned to St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, Long Island, N.Y., for a six-year stint where he worked at the retreat house and helped in local parishes (1970-76). In 1976 he was drafted to work at the Provincial Offices at Kohlmann Hall in the Bronx as the Socius to the Vice Provincial for Social and Pastoral Ministry (1976-79). After three years working directly for the Province, he began a long stretch in parish ministry. He spent just a year at St. Joseph’s Parish in the Bronx (1979-80), and then moved across the river to his home state, and for the next 15 years he worked at St. Peter’s Parish in downtown Jersey City, for a year as an Associate and then as Pastor (1981-96). In 1996, Fr. Halligan was given a well-deserved sabbatical year (1996-97), part of which he immersed himself in theological renewal at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif.
Fr. Halligan came back to Long Island in 1997 and was assigned to St. Anthony’s Parish in Oceanside, N.Y. (1997-98) and did some retreat work while he was there. After only a year he was assigned back to St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset (1998-2013), where he had served more than 20 years before. These were the last years of St. Ignatius Retreat House, often affectionately referred to as Inisfada, Gaelic for Long Island, and the original name of the estate where the retreat house was located. Fr. Halligan was part of the Jesuit staff that moved out of the retreat house to a new residence in Westbury, Long Island, where he tried to learn to cook! It was during this time that a seed was sown in Fr. Halligan and he began to think about writing the history of Inisfada. It took a while, quite a while, but write it he did, and self-published it as Inisfada – A House Called Long Island in 2013. For him it was a labor of love.
When Inisfada finally closed its doors, Fr. Halligan moved to St. Aidan’s Parish in Williston Park, N.Y., not far from Inisfada where he worked in pastoral ministry and continued to do some retreat work (2013-17). After four years at St. Aidan’s, when age began to creep up on Fr. Halligan, he moved to Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit Health-care residence in the Bronx, where he was assigned to pray for the Church and the Society of Jesus. There he enjoyed several years of relatively good health and well-deserved retirement. He loved to walk on the Fordham campus and could not resist picking up a new and colorful leaf or piece of foliage which he would then press and mount quite artfully.
In 2023 his health began to decline, and after several months of particularly failing health, Fr. Halligan died quite peacefully on January 10, 2024. We trust that he rests in peace and continues to pray for the Church and the Society.