Msgr. Bernard J. Trinity, 93, of Havertown, a popular longtime Catholic priest, high school teacher and principal, and former pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton, died Thursday, Sept. 2, of renal failure at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
The first principal when Archbishop John Carroll Girls High School opened in 1967 in Radnor, Msgr. Trinity oversaw the construction of the new building, and served as principal until 1973. He was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2018, the 50th anniversary of its opening, and remembered in one online tribute for his “human smile.”
“At his core he loved being an educator,” said his niece, Kitty Keenan. “He was able to make a connection to people on a deeper level, and his Catholic faith was the framework that defined him.”
In a Facebook post, former Carroll students, many of whom remained in touch with him, wrote that Msgr. Trinity “laid the foundation upon which Archbishop Carroll has been built over the last 50 years and helped to create the Carroll Cares culture.”
From 1981 to 2003, Msgr. Trinity was the third pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Southampton, and known there to be selfless, kind, supportive, and devoted. He gave dynamic homilies, and made it a point to be present in the everyday joys and sorrows of his parish.
“He was loved by his fellow priests and parishioners,” the parish wrote on its website, and the parish office was named the Trinity Center in his honor.
He was first an English teacher at Cardinal Dougherty High School, then became its principal, from 1973-81, after leaving Carroll.
Dougherty was billed as the largest Catholic school in the world in 1973, and people remember Msgr. Trinity for his ever-present smile and calm demeanor even during stressful times.
As a young priest, he served at Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Pottsville; St. Joseph Parish in Ambler; and St. Christopher Parish in Philadelphia. He earned a master’s degree from Villanova University in 1967, and was named honorary prelate of Pope John Paul II in 1985.
Since his official retirement in 2003 at 75, he had been a resident at St. Denis Parish in Havertown. Never really retired, until recently he continued to attend Mass, visit the sick, hear confessions, and give spiritual direction when he saw the need.
Born Feb. 24, 1928, in West Philadelphia to Irish immigrants James and Catherine Trinity, Msgr. Trinity grew up in Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, went to St. Thomas More High School in West Philadelphia, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, and was ordained in 1954.
As a young man, he embraced health and wellness, and liked to run around the track at Cardinal Dougherty and on the Boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. He was an avid reader of mysteries and crime novels, liked crossword puzzles, and delighted in riding bikes and fishing with his nieces and nephews.
He had recently been planning to attend the 50th anniversary of one of Carroll’s classes.
“He was steadfast in his beliefs,” Keenan said. “He was exceptional in that he never deviated in his convictions. He was a wonderful priest on every level.”
The Rev. Kevin Gallagher spent 15 years with Msgr. Trinity at St. Denis, and called him a “treasure of wisdom as a human being and pastor.”
“He had great wit and wisdom, humor and humility,” Gallagher said. “He had a father’s heart, and was the same with everyone.”
In addition to his niece, Msgr. Trinity is survived by other relatives. Three sisters and two brothers died earlier.
Services were held at St. Denis Church on Sept. 8 and 9. Interment was at Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.