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Rev. Thomas P. Clements

Deceased: 2023-02-24


CSM Graduation Year: 1967

Father Thomas Paul Clements of High Point, formerly of Raleigh, passed away peacefully on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, at Pennybyrn retirement community. He was 94. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered by Bishop Peter J. Jugis at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 23, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church located at 375 Lumen Christie Lane in Salisbury, N.C. A reception will immediately follow at the pavilion of The Revival Golf Course at the Crescent located at 220 Laurel Valley Way in Salisbury.

Interment will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Nantucket, Mass. Father Tom will be buried with his sister and her family. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated by Father John M. Murray, pastor of St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle Parish. Father Tom attended and celebrated Masses at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle as well as weddings, baptisms and funerals for his family there.

A beloved pastor, family member and friend, Father Tom ministered at parishes throughout North Carolina for 45 years until his retirement in 2000. This May would have been the 68th anniversary of his priesthood.

Born in Raleigh on March 26, 1928, to the late Joseph B. and Mary J. Clements, Tom went to grade school at the Cathedral School in Raleigh before moving to Maryland to attend St. Charles High School. He later attended St. Charles College, a minor seminary in Catonsville, Md.

He continued his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore where he was ordained a transitional deacon in 1954. He returned to his hometown to be ordained a priest at Raleigh’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on May 19, 1955. Bishop Vincent Waters presided over the ordination that also included Father Robert Shea and the future Monsignor Joseph Showfety, the first chancellor of the Diocese of Charlotte.

Father Tom began his priestly ministry when the Diocese of Raleigh comprised the entire state. His first assignment was at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton Grove followed by St. Benedict Church in Greensboro, where he was parochial vicar for two years.

His first assignment as pastor came in 1958 at St. Mary Help of Christians Church in Shelby followed by Christ the King in Kings Mountain, St. Joseph of the Hills Church in Eden, St. Joan of Arc Church in Candler, Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury, St. Charles Borromeo Church in Morganton, Holy Family Church in Clemmons and Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro.

In 1988, he returned as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury. Although he didn’t know any Spanish at the time, Father Tom started the Hispanic Ministry at the parish in 1995 because he saw a need for it. He ministered at Sacred Heart until his retirement in 2000 and continued to assist with sacraments at nearby parishes.

Father Tom studied throughout his priesthood. He spent a year in Rome (1966-1967) at the Pontifical North American College. He later studied at the University of Georgia (1972-1973) and returned home to continue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a master’s degree in social work in 1974. He was the director of Catholic Social Services from 1972 to 1986 and served as the vicar of the Hickory, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Albemarle vicariates at different points in his ministry.

He also served as the chaplain at the W.G. (Bill) Hefner Salisbury Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury from August 1997 until March 2010. This work was very important to him, and he touched many lives there during his tenure. He made many friends at the VA center as he did wherever he went.

Father Tom’s family was always an integral part of his life. He was devoted to his sister, Anne, and consistently made a point to visit her for her birthday. He was there for Anne and her four children when she was widowed at a young age. He was a wonderful uncle to all of his nine nieces and nephews. He spent as much time with them as he could when they were growing up, while still fulfilling his duties as a full-time pastor of his church. He faithfully stayed in touch with his family in North Carolina, Maryland, Louisiana, South Carolina and Massachusetts. He was his family’s uncle and priest and served both titles in an exemplary way for decades.

Father Tom also had a deep love and respect for nature. He enjoyed the outdoors and was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in whatever part of the country he happened to be. Birds had a special place in Tom’s world, and he passed that love and respect on to his family. When he would visit his sister and family in Nantucket, one of his favorite things was to walk to the beach and spend quiet time there. He would always bring back treasures from these walks.

In August of 2012, Father Tom was fortunate to move into Pennybyrn at Maryfield with the help of his nieces, Soo and Diane. It was a joyful process and one that he embraced, much to his family’s delight. He settled into assisted living and lived a happy and full life at Pennybyrn. His family is forever grateful to everyone who was a part of Father Tom’s life at the retirement community. His niece, Soo, was a regular visitor there, and every visit ensured her how well-cared for Father Tom was and how content and delighted he was being a part of the Pennybyrn family.

He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph B. and Mary J. Clements, brother, Joseph “Doc” Clements, sister Anne Hancock Woodley, sister-in-law Edie Clements, brothers-in-law David Hancock and Jack Woodley, niece Carolyn Clements, grandniece Marnie Clements, niece Bonnie Woodley, cousin Mrs. Leo Middleton and Mr. Laurie Murray and many other loved aunts, uncles and cousins.

Those left to cherish his memory are his nieces and nephews, Soo Woodley (Ernie Oliver), Patrick Hancock (Kris), Michael Woodley, Diane Nichols, Jack Woodley Jr., Joseph Clements III (Donna), Frank Clements (Kim), Robert Clements (Susie), 18 grandnieces and nephews, 12 great-grandnieces and nephews, and many loving friends.

To quote a friend who sent a card of condolence: “Father Tom was a man who could always say so much with very few words.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Father Tom Clements’ name to: Sisters of Maryfield, SMG, 1315 Greensboro Road, High Point, N.C. 27260, or to Salisbury VAMC, Voluntary Service, 1601 Brenner Ave., Salisbury, N.C. 28144. Any funds donated will be used directly for the veterans.

Sechrest-Davis Funerals and Cremations in High Point is in charge of the arrangements.  Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Clements family.