By Philip Newman
Msgr. John McCullagh, a New York City Police Department chaplain for two decades and highly decorated military chaplain while serving with U.S. Army paratroops in Vietnam, died last Thursday at the age of 74.
“Monsignor McCullagh was a priest’s priest,” said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. McCullagh spent his last six months at St. Josephat Rectory in Bayside. He died at Jamaica Hospital.
McCullagh, born in Brooklyn on Aug. 26, 1929, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest June 4, 1955, appointed a monsignor March 11, 1976 and served St. Clare’s Church in Rosedale and St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus parishes in Brooklyn.
“My uncle took pride in his service with the Army,” said Brian McCullagh of New Hyde Park, L.I. “He kept in touch with his Army buddies by flying a private plane to visit them in various parts of the United States as well as his sister in Denver.”
McCullagh said his uncle had a private pilot’s license and later a commercial flying license as well. He said McCullagh flew a Cessna light plane in an arrangement with friends in the Police Department.
“My uncle conducted more than 500 funerals for deceased members of the Police Department in his time as a chaplain representing Brooklyn and Queens,” Brian McCullagh said.
“As a priest, he also had the gift of being able to put people at ease,” McCullagh said.
McCallagh made more than 200 jumps with airborne troops in Vietnam and was bestowed with the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Legions of Merit as well as the Vietnamese Medal of Gallantry.
He attended St. Bernard’s Seminary and graduated with degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell University.
He testified as an expert witness in 1970 before a U.S. Senate committee investigating drugs and alcohol in the military services.
McCallagh was buried at St. John’s Cemetery in Middle Village after a Mass at St. Anthony-St. Alponsus Church in Brooklyn.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at email@example.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.