By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF, firstname.lastname@example.org | Published January 13, 2020
ATLANTA–Father Walter Wilford Foley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta for more than 43 years, died Saturday, Jan. 11. He was 91 years old.
Born in Princeton, New Jersey in December 1928, Father Foley earned a bachelor’s degree in education at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, before graduating from St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Indiana. He entered religious life as a teenager, becoming a Holy Cross brother at 19.
Father Foley was a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross from 1948 to 1975. He served in Uganda, East Africa, where he was in charge of a teacher training college. He also taught high school in Indiana and New York.
He decided to become a priest at the age of 40 and called a clergy member he knew in Atlanta to begin the process.
Father Foley was ordained to the priesthood on Oct. 23, 1976 by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan.
He first assignment was as a parochial vicar at Holy Family Church, Marietta, and then was assigned in 1978 as a parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur, where he served for two years.
In 1980, he began four years of service as a parochial vicar at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn. He served his first pastorate from 1984-88 at St. Joseph Church in Dalton and also as dean of the northwest rural deanery. He became pastor of St. John Neumann Church in 1988 and in 1991 became pastor of St. Anthony Church in Blue Ridge. He served as a parochial vicar at St. Pius X Church in Conyers from 1994-95 and was pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Hartwell from 1995 until retirement in 1998.
On the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest in 2001, Father Foley spoke with The Georgia Bulletin about the meaning of the Eucharist to him.
“Everything is centered around the Eucharist, my personal life, preaching life, community life,” he said. “To me the Mass is pretty much everything. Everything revolves around it—not the preaching—the Mass.”
As a priest, Father Foley always enjoyed teaching both children and adults, particularly when adults would read Scripture and tie it into today’s world.
A student of history and an avid reader, Father Foley also played golf. He researched and wrote about several faith topics including the meaning of the words used in Mass so that the laity would better understand the celebration. Father Foley was known to dedicate much time and prayer to preparing his homilies.
In his retirement, Father Foley continued to serve as a supply priest to parishes when a priest had to be away.
At the time of his death, he was residing at St. George Village, Roswell. He is survived by his sisters, Kathleen Schwartz of West Windsor, New Jersey; and Nancy Markuson of Laurel, Florida; several nieces and nephews and their families. He was preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Bertha Foley; and sisters Mary Alice Shurtz and Patricia Foley Smith.
Reception of the body will be on Thursday, Jan. 16, at 4 p.m., at the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta. A vigil service will follow at 6 p.m.
The funeral Mass will be on Friday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m., at the Cathedral of Christ the King. Interment at Arlington Memorial Park, 201 Mount Vernon Highway, NW, Sandy Springs, will follow the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Father Foley’s memory may be made to: Priest Assistance Fund for Senior Priests Care, 2401 Lake Park Drive, SE, Smyrna, GA 30080.