Story by Dorothy K. LaMantia | Correspondent
As he contemplates retirement, Father Edward J. Griswold looks back with gratitude upon 44 years of priesthood, during which he served as pastor and leader of a number of diocesan offices and as a professor of homiletics at St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore.
The roots of his vocation run deep into his earliest days. He was born in 1946 in Newark to Edward and Dolores Griswold, who, he said, provided a good Catholic upbringing for their family.
Six years later, the family moved to Union Beach and found a spiritual home in the town’s Holy Family Parish, where, “my family was very involved, and I became an altar server,” Father Griswold said.
As a student in St. Joseph School, Keyport, then Red Bank Catholic High, he was inspired by the dedication of the priests, especially Father William Bausch, and the positive impact they had on people’s lives. Young Edward discerned that serving God and his people and living out his own spiritual life were important, but he decided to wait until he graduated high school before beginning formal training for the priesthood.
He attended St. Charles College, Catonsville, Md., then St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore. During his preparation for the priesthood, he served as deacon in St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, then St. Ambrose Parish, Old Bridge (now the Diocese of Metuchen), where he was ordained by Bishop George W. Ahr in 1973. Father Bausch, his mentor and friend, preached at his ordination.
Father Griswold remained in his first assignment as parochial vicar in St. Matthias Parish, Somerset, for seven years. During that time, he was assigned to serve part time with the diocesan Office of Vocations, in which he found great satisfaction. In 1979, he was named director of the program.
“It was such important work to interact with men who felt God’s calling and shared the journey to the priesthood,” he said. “I received such hope in working with these men.”
In addition to his diocesan duties, Father Griswold served as parochial vicar and then temporary administrator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and also served as temporary administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson.
In 1987, Father Griswold became executive director of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors in Chicago. His career took an academic turn when he was named associate dean of formation at Mundelein Seminary, Chicago, a position he held for four years.
In 1995, he returned to the Diocese of Trenton to serve as pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, and also diocesan director of continuing education and formation of priests, as well as president of the Priest Presbyteral Council. Twelve years later, Father Griswold became pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square. His desire to improve his own preaching led him to study homiletics, and he was awarded a doctor of ministry degree in preaching from the Aquinas Institute of Theology at St. Louis University, St. Louis.
Helping Future Priests
In 2009, when he was invited to teach homiletics in St. Mary Seminary and University, he joined the faculty with the approval of Bishop M. John Smith. Subsequently, he was named vice rector and director of pastoral formation.
Father Griswold said he found great fulfillment in seeing his students develop their preaching skills.
“Good preaching is greatly needed in the life of the Church,” he said. “Students want to become good preachers. It was a great experience to see them progress, grow and to find their preaching voice.”
In contemplating his priesthood with its intertwined ministries, Father Griswold reflected, “I enjoyed being a pastor to provide vision for the parish community and empower people to take on ministry themselves to be a community of Catholic life. I enjoyed my work guiding vocations in the seminary. I am grateful to God for the gifts he brought to my ministry.”
In retirement, Father Griswold looks forward to a yearlong sabbatical to begin researching the history of preaching 50 years before and after the Second Vatican Council. He has received a fellowship to teach and do research in the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., in the fall. In spring, he will be in residence in Chicago’s Catholic Theological Union to continue the project, which he hopes will result in a homiletics book.