The Rev. Richard Conboy, a Catholic priest with a gift for organization and consensus-building, died March 25, on the 53rd anniversary of his ordination. He was 78 and had battled diabetes.
After a two-year stint at St. Bernard Parish, Mt. Lebanon, following his ordination, he spent much of his ministry in a variety of overlapping administrative assignments. Some aren't on his official resume. During the 1970s he worked with communities of Catholic sisters and brothers to help them chart new missions, structures and goals in the turmoil that followed Vatican II.
"His great gift was that he had the talent for bringing people together. He could get heaven and hell together and get them to agree on purgatory," said the Rev. Hugh Lang, a former diocesan secretary of education and a friend of Father Conboy.
"He was very busy all over the country, working with religious communities of men and women to help them define their role after Vatican II."
He grew up in Wilkinsburg and attended Central Catholic High School in Oakland. After graduating from St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, he was ordained March 25, 1960. After St. Bernard, he served from 1962 to 1967 as headmaster of Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead, then earned a doctorate at the University of Notre Dame. He was assistant superintendant of Catholic schools in the Pittsburgh diocese from 1970 to 1972, and spent a decade in overlapping assignments as director of research and planning for the diocese and resident director and chaplain of the DePaul School for Hearing and Speech.
From 1981 to 1996 he was executive assistant to the president of Duquesne University. While there, he began serving as chaplain at Kane Regional Center in Scott and the Felician Sisters motherhouse in Coraopolis. He continued with the Felician Sisters until retiring June 1.
The guest book for his online obituary is filled with posts from former students, patients and family at Bishop Boyle, DePaul and Kane, praising his kindness, humility and homilies.
That's true, but it's not the whole story, said Sister Margaret Carney, president of St. Bonaventure University in Buffalo, N.Y., who worked with him when she was assistant vicar for religious in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
"He was also very intense when he addressed issues of planning, of changing systems," she said.
He wasn't assertive about his own needs, but was a strong advocate for goals he believed in.
"He was very disciplined and expected discipline from his co-workers. But he was a servant leader," she said. "He was almost egoless in some ways. He would do his very best to bring the best possible proposal to the table, and do his best to work with whatever outcomes that planning produced."
The 1970s were painful for religious communities as they re-evaluated their way of life in the wake of Vatican II. Many of them lost members.
"He transferred his planning skills to working with the religious congregations to help them downsize or right-size or create brand new structures to govern more effectively and economically," Sister Margaret said.
He is survived by a sister, Kathleen Filson of Savannah, Ga. His funeral was Monday.
Ann Rodgers: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.