Rev. Christopher Twohig, 85, Dies; Served in 5 Area Parishes

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

The Rev. Christopher T. Twohig, 85, an Irish-born parish priest who served in five Catholic churches in the Washington area, and in the 1950s and 1960s conducted Masses in sign language at Gallaudet University, died of pneumonia Sept. 19 at St. Joseph's Hospital in Cork, Ireland.

Father Twohig was working at Holy Name Church in Northeast Washington when he began assisting at Gallaudet, a college for the deaf and hard of hearing. While not officially a chaplain there, he engaged with the students, helping them find jobs and introducing them to other Washington residents. He learned sign language to communicate and to conduct Masses.

A talented musician, Father Twohig also started youth music programs and bands in each of the parishes where he served. He made friends with Army, Navy and Air Force musicians he met at each church, and enlisted them as volunteers to teach interested youngsters. He also often found donated instruments for the youths.

"He loved kids," said Ted Lombard, who knew him at Holy Name and who made the priest a part of his family. "He could be a tough taskmaster, and when a kid poured a soda pop down an upright piano, you saw a mad Irishman and I'm sure that kid will never forget it. But he could play most anything. When he couldn't find a teacher, he taught the kids himself."

He became a part of other families, too. Fran McConnell, who was a child when Father Twohig was a priest at Holy Name, later ran into him when her family moved to Forestville's Mount Calvary parish, and he followed.

"All the children loved him," she said. "I think they loved his Irish brogue."

Late in life, Father Twohig lost his ability to hear and to speak, said Tim McGowan, another of the priest's former parishioners.

Father Twohig was born in Ireland, in Coolavokig, Macroom, County Cork. He graduated from St. Kieran's College and Seminary in County Kilkenny and was ordained a priest in 1950.

His first assignment was at St. Patrick's Church in Washington, and a year later he moved to Holy Name, where he stayed until 1959. A brief assignment took him to St. Jerome in Hyattsville, and then he spent seven years at Mount Calvary. In 1966, he moved to St. Peter Claver Church in Ridge, Md., where he stayed until 1972 when he was reassigned to Los Angeles. After 15 years in California, Father Twohig returned to Ireland, assigned to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in County Mayo. He retired in 2005.

Survivors include two sisters and a brother, all of whom reside in Ireland.

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