Father James J. Vaughan, who had been a priest in the Diocese of Albany for 70 years and pastor and pastor emeritus at Sacred Heart Church in Troy since 1973, died Sept. 11 at age 94 at Teresian House.

Father Vaughan was a beloved figure at Sacred Heart having served there as pastor longer than any other priest and was key in the establishment of Sacred Heart School as well as the expansion of the laity’s role in the church.

A Funeral Mass was scheduled to be held at Sacred Heart on Sept. 16 in which Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger was expected to preside. 
On June 3 of this year, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden issued a proclamation honoring Father Vaughan on the 70th anniversary of his ordination. The proclamation declared that day as ‘Father James Vaughan Day’ in the City of Troy. The proclamation read that Father Vaughan’s “service to the community was known across Troy, Rensselaer County and beyond, and his good works in the community, guided by his faith in God, served as an example of selfless service for others to follow.”

The next day, to show their love and appreciation for Father Vaughan and to celebrate his anniversary, parishioners and friends organized an “anniversary” car caravan in his honor. Over 120 cars — filled with parishioners, families and loved ones — made their way to the rehabilitation center in Van Rensselaer Manor, where Father Vaughan was rehabbing a health setback, to say hello.

Not looking his age, Father Vaughan waved his arms, smiled and blew kisses to every car in the parade. Every few cars he would raise his hands even higher and give two thumbs up. A smile never left his face and his arms never stopped waving. “He’s like a saint,” said Joe Gregware, parishioner at St. Michael’s the Archangel in Troy, on the day of the caravan. “He’s had a huge impact on my life.” 

Added Herald Curley, parishioner at Sacred Heart, who named his youngest son after Father Vaughan: “I’ve known him for a long time and he’s just a beautiful person.”

Father Vaughan was born in Syracuse on Dec. 8, 1925, and after his mother, Nora,  died when he was young, his father, Arthur, moved the family to Troy. He attended St. Michael’s School on Stow Avenue and graduated from Catholic Central High School in 1943. As a boy, he had a dog that he loved and as a priest, he cared for five Cocker Spaniels, all named “Mickey.” He attended St. Thomas Seminary in Connecticut and was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1950. 

After his ordination, he served for eight years as assistant pastor at St. Mary’s in Troy. In 1958, he became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, telling The Evangelist in an interview on May 28 “that he wanted to serve his country.” He served until 1960 and for eight years after in the Navy reserves. While in the military, he served in Newport, R.I., The Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland and at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (Calif.)

When he returned to the Diocese, he served as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart in Troy from 1960-62 and at St. Ambrose in Latham from 1962-63. In 1963, he was appointed pastor at St. Patrick’s in Athens and chaplain of New York State Vocational Institution. From 1963-69, he also was chaplain at Coxsackie Correctional facility.

In 1965, he was named Deanery Moderator of the C.Y.O and, in 1968, he became area director of C.C.D. in Greene County. In 1969, he was named pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Hudson, and during that time, was appointed dean of Columbia County and spent three months at North American College in Rome working on graduate studies, before being named pastor at Sacred Heart in Troy.

In the Evangelist interview, Father Vaughan said one of his favorite things about the priesthood was hearing confessions “because so many people came back to the church after being away from it.”

Upon his retirement on June 18, 2000, Father Vaughan continued to live at the Sacred Heart Church rectory and serve as a priest. He enjoyed the priesthood, parish work, his priest friends, and a close, loving relationship with all of his first and second cousins and their families, both those who lived locally and many in California, Ireland, and Florida.

Every birthday, the Sacred Heart School children presented him with gifts and cards they had made, which he treasured, and the school’s gymnasium was named in his honor in 1990. Father Vaughan enjoyed sports, especially golf and swimming, and was a devoted fan of the New York Yankees, Giants and Notre Dame. He enjoyed traveling, especially to Ireland, Europe, Florida and Hawaii with his uncle who was also a priest.

Donations in Father Vaughan’s memory can made to Sacred Heart Church and/or Sacred Heart School, 310 Spring Ave., Troy, N.Y., 12180.