Fr. John "Jack" Cregan
Unlike too many of the officers he eulogized, the Rev. John J. Cregan died peacefully.Cregan, long-time pastor of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church and chaplain of many safety organizations, died Thursday at Ennis Court in Lakewood from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 76.He often said he would have been a cop, like his father and several other relatives, but for the priesthood. He ended up as a favorite priest of cops.His West Park church teems with safety officers. He was also a chaplain for the Cleveland police, the FBI and more. Quick to laugh, cry and joke, he helped many families cope with deaths on duty.After Patrolman Wayne Leon was slain in 2000, his widow, Grace, asked several priests why God took him. "I was getting a lot of very cliched responses," she said Friday, "like, 'He's in better hands now' or 'God needed him more than you do.' To me, that just didn't make sense.So she sought out Cregan. With moist eyes, he said, "Grace, I don't know. It doesn't make sense to me. We're just not meant to understand it in this life.As Leon recalled, "Hearing his comforting words finally gave me peace. That's the essence of our faith in this life: There is no answer right now.Cregan became a regular at the Leons' home, plying the three young children with Malley's chocolates.His main hobby was socializing. He loved to tell long jokes and often broke down laughing before the punch lines.He could have had breakfast, lunch and dinner dates every day," said Kathy Roche, his sacristan at Our Lady of Angels. "So many people loved him.His father, Lt. Joseph Cregan, spent 42 years on the Cleveland police. The son was the fourth of six children raised on the West Side. He went to St. Ignatius High School, Saint Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, Borromeo Seminary and St. Mary Seminary. He was ordained in 1961.Cregan served at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Cleveland, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Strongsville and St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Brooklyn. In 1974, he returned to Blessed Sacrament as pastor.He led Our Lady of Angels from 1986 to 2010, when he retired. He was also an instructor at St. Edward High School.He was Catholic chaplain of the Cleveland police, original chaplain of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association and chaplain of the Fraternal Order of Police, Brookside Knights of Columbus and many other groups. He started an annual Mass for deceased safety officers across Cuyahoga County.Among many other posts, Cregan was dean of the Cleveland Central West Deanery, moderator of the diocese's Catholic Parent Teacher League, moderator of the Retired/Retirable Irish Police Society and board president of Cleveland's Franciscan Village. He won several awards and became the 12th inductee of the Cleveland Police Museum Hall of Fame.Our Lady of Angels' Kathy Roche said Cregan welcomed anyone to hold family events there and never scolded them for poor attendance in between. He'd say, "This is our way of getting them possibly back to the church, welcoming them, being there for them and letting them realize this is what's missing in their lives.Cregan often spoke out about safety. In 1984, he chaired a group pressing Cleveland's leaders to hire more officers.In a homily for slain Detective Robert Clark in 1998, Cregan urged lawmakers to "hear the cries of Catherine Clark and other widows like her who sit alone at night with their children, knowing that their husbands and fathers will never come home. All I ask is that the lawmakers put themselves in their shoes and see to it that guns be allowed only in the hands of those who are entitled to use them. And that drug dealers be dealt with in proportion to their involvement.But he didn't always side with cops. He supported Cleveland's residency law, to keep his parish stable.In 1984, Cregan told The Plain Dealer that priests should take sides on public policies. "You can't quite separate social issues and moral issues. We have a responsibility for life.In 2004, Dennis Kucinich extolled him on the floor of the U.S. House: "His kind, compassionate and gentle nature has touched the lives of countless families and individuals.On Friday, Grace Leon said Cregan's professed ignorance had died with him. "Now I feel that he knows all the answers.Dearest son of the late Joseph and Florence (nee McGraw) Cregan. Loving brother of Sr. M. Theresine C.S.J., Rita Joyce (Patrick), Florence Schwind (Robert) and the late Joseph and Margaret Cregan. Cherished uncle and great uncle of the Joyce and Schwind families. Also survived by many dear friends. In lieu of flowers the family requests donation to The Greater Cleveland Safety Forces Holy Name Society, 250 Kraft St., Berea, Oh. 44017 or Ennis Court Chapel Fund, 13315 Detroit Ave. Lakewood, Oh. 44107. Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday May 23, 2012 Our Lady of Angels Church at 11:00AM. Bishop A. James Quinn Principal Celebrant. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery. The family will receive friends MONDAY 2 GÇô 8 PM at the Funeral Home and TUESDAY Vespers will be held at Our Lady of Angels Church at 3:00 PM with visitation following from 4 GÇô 8 PM.Arrangements entrusted to A. RIPEPI & SONS FUNERAL HOME, 18149 BAGLEY ROAD, MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS (WEST OF I-71). "I thank God for calling me to the priesthood; and thank Him for giving me such a wonderful family, parishioners and friends. -Fr. CreganFrom the Cleveland Plain Dealer.This is a link to the slideshow of his retirement as Chaplain of the Cleveland Police Department in April 2011: http://bit.ly/JzCkvm"