Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Michael Alexander
Father Tom Flynn is pictured in his office at Emory University in this 2009 file photo. He was a priest of the Diocese of Helena Montana, serving in Atlanta. He died on Feb. 29.


Father Thomas Flynn, Emory professor, remembered  

Published March 20, 2024

ATLANTA—Father Thomas Robert Flynn of Atlanta died on Feb. 29. He touched many people through his compassionate, kind and gentle ways. Father Flynn was 87 years old. A priest of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, he was a longtime faculty member of Emory University in Atlanta. 

Tom was born in Spokane, Washington to Thomas Flynn and Bernice Colliton Flynn in June 1936. He lived in Spokane and Bismark, North Dakota, before moving to Anaconda, Montana. He always considered Anaconda his home, graduating from Anaconda Central High School in 1954. He then attended Carroll College in Helena, graduating summa cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and history. He attended seminary at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and was ordained a priest in 1961. He was valedictorian of his class, graduating summa cum laude from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1962, earning a master’s degree in theology. In 1970 he earned a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in New York. 

He taught at Catholic University (Washington, D.C.), Carroll College and St. Mary’s (Baltimore). In 1978 he joined the faculty at Emory University. He was the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Philosophy at Emory where he continued to teach until retiring in 2021.  

He was a favorite professor of Emory students and earned numerous teaching awards, including the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award. Father Flynn wanted his career to be remembered for helping students on their journey to understanding the world around them and their place in it. 

His area of expertise was Existentialism. He was a world-renowned expert on Jean-Paul Sartre. He also contributed considerable research on other contemporary French philosophers. He has written seven books and coauthored others, as well as hundreds of articles. 

Father Flynn always loved teaching but said first and foremost that he was a Catholic priest. He took great pride in being part of the Helena diocese and had many cherished friends among the clergy. In Atlanta, he celebrated Mass for the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity Gift of Grace House. He also served at St. John Chrysostom Melkite Catholic Church, Atlanta, for more than 30 years and was beloved by their congregation. One of Father Flynn’s greatest loves was ministering to those who were suffering.  

He loved traveling. Father Flynn was a much loved and admired brother, uncle, cousin and friend. He especially enjoyed spending time with his nieces, nephews, godchildren and young people in general. He had a gift for meeting them where they were and being genuinely interested in their lives. 

He was preceded in death by his parents; stepmother, Gertrude Flynn; brothers, John and Jim; and sister, Betty. He is survived by sisters, Rose Flynn (Bob) of Silverdale, Washington and Mary Kovacich (Jack) of Lakeside, Montana; brother, George Martin (Kitty) of Yucca Valley, California; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. 

In the final years of life he battled Alzheimer’s with grace and humility. When he was first diagnosed, he prayed that he could keep his faith and sense of humor, and he was blessed to be able to do that. His care on the journey was a blessing, and the family extended their sincere thanks to his precious friends of “Team Tom” and loving caregivers Kara, Tiffany, Stella and Rose. 

A funeral liturgy was March 7 at St. John Chrysostom Melkite Church. A funeral Mass was celebrated on March 14 in Anaconda. 

Donations in Father Flynn’s memory may be given to: The Missionaries of Charity, 995 St. Charles Avenue N.E., Atlanta GA 30306; Attn: Sister Aracelly, MC. 

Editor’s Note: Father Flynn’s teaching vocation was featured in a 2009 Georgia Bulletin profile.