Msgr. John F. Cox dies at 97


PROVIDENCE — Reverend Monsignor John F. Cox, 97, Pastor Emeritus of St. Peter Church, Warwick died on March 8 after a brief illness.

Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Peter F. and Mary A. (Hackett) Cox.

He attended public elementary schools, was a 1928 graduate of LaSalle Academy, a 1932 honors graduate of Providence College and received a master of arts degree and doctorate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

In preparation for the priesthood, he studied theology at St. Mary Seminary, Baltimore, MD, and was ordained a priest on June 6, 1936 in the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul by Bishop Francis P. Keough. He celebrated his first Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church, his childhood parish, and appropriately to where he was returned for his Mass of Christian Burial.

After a year of service in the Cathedral in Providence, Msgr. Cox completed his graduate studies, and became a member of the faculty at the new Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Warwick Neck in 1941. For 29 years he taught philosophy, science, history and English; as well as serving as Dean of Students. As an educator for so many years, Msgr. Cox taught many of the next several generations of Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Providence. An additional diocesan responsibility included serving as a Synodal Judge. In 1961, Pope John XXIII appointed him a Domestic Prelate with the title of Monsignor. Msgr. Cox was awarded an honorary doctorate in education from Providence College in 1963. He was inducted into the LaSalle Academy Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 1969, Msgr. Cox became the pastor of St. Peter Church, Warwick and retired in August 1986 with the title Pastor Emeritus. During his pastorate, he also served as the Dean of the Warwick Deanery from 1970 through 1974, Vicar General of the Diocese of Providence in 1971, and as a member of the Senate of Priests.

Although Msgr. Cox devoted his life to his priestly vocation, he pursued a lifelong avocation to sports, both participating and spectating. His earliest interest in baseball came from his catching in sandlot ball at Providence's Davis Park and his dedication to the Boston Red Sox was rewarded early as he followed the 1918 World Series championship by listening on the crystal radio. Msgr. Cox occasionally mentioned that the only career he would have liked if he had not been a priest was a professional baseball player — as a catcher. His dedication to the Providence College Friars was well known to his fellow fans, as he seldom missed a game through his mid-80s. Msgr. Cox remained an avid swimmer and golfer through most of his life, crediting exercise as a key to longevity. Msgr. Cox was the oldest living Catholic priest in the Diocese of Providence.

Msgr. Cox was the brother of the late Rosella V. Cox, Anna (Cox) Monahan, and Alice (Cox) Cooney. He is survived by a niece, Alicia Cooney Quigley of Boston and a number of cousins in both the United States and Ireland.

A concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial was offered for the repose of his soul on March 11 in Blessed Sacrament Church, Providence, with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin as the main celebrant with Bishops Louise E. Gelineau, George H. Pearce, Ernest B. Boland, Francis X. Roque, Robert J. McManus, Daniel P. Riley, both from the Diocese of Worcester and other clergy concelebrating.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, Bishop of the Diocese of Burlington, VT, was the homilist. Burial was in St. James Cemetery, Manville.

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made in memory of Msgr. Cox to St. Peter's Tri-Parish School, 350 Fair Street, Warwick, RI 02888.