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Mar 17, 2012 12:17 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Monsignor Trench of Sacred Hearts Remembered As People Person

Mar 21, 2012 10:16 AM

When it came time for a child’s baptism, the Reverend Monsignor Edmond J. Trench would turn to the sea.

He and the parishioners at the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church in Southampton Village would collect clamshells that the beloved priest would mark with the date of a child’s baptism. Those special clamshells still adorn the homes of the children he baptized, serving as seaside mementos of Catholicism’s first sacrament.

“It was really nice because we live out here by the ocean,” said one parishioner of the Hill Street church, Barbara Wilson, who serves as both a Southampton Town and Southampton Village justice. “I think it really showed how much he was in touch with his congregation.”

Monsignor Trench died at about 4 a.m. on Saturday at Southampton Hospital at age 81, following a battle with lung cancer.

Monsignor Trench—still called “Father Trench” by those who knew him—served as pastor of Sacred Hearts from June 1988 to June 2000 and stayed with the parish as pastor emeritus through his death. He enjoyed a good game of golf and serving as a firefighter, but, above all, he was a people person.

“He had very few hobbies. He did play golf, but what he enjoyed most was people,” his brother, John J. Trench, said. “It got to a point where most people in Southampton looked at him as a member of their actual family, they were so close.”

As family and friends streamed in and out of Brockett Funeral Home on Hampton Road on Tuesday afternoon to pay their respects during a wake, Monsignor Trench’s love of children and young members of the parish was a common theme.

“He loved the younger ones, the young couples. He really wanted to provide a path for them to take,” one of his nieces, Jean Claud, remarked. “Any young person. He was a fabulous resource for my children when they were going through Confirmation or First Communion.”

Joe Taranto, a Eucharistic minister and lector at Sacred Hearts, who described himself as a good friend of the late priest’s, said, “The children used to run up and grab his legs because he was tall and the kids were short.” The youths would get enveloped in so-called “Trench hugs.” Mr. Taranto and Monsignor Trench often would go out to dinner, but it was a sometimes-difficult experience, Mr. Taranto, said, because so many people would come up to the priest to say hello that it was hard to finish a meal.

His faith in children allowed Aria, the church’s children’s choir, to soar, according to Loreen Enright, director of the choir. “By believing in the children, he gave young musicians and singers a place to sing in a wonderful, spiritual way,” she said. One young girl, who started in the choir at 8, has gone on to become an opera singer, she said.

But although youngsters captured a special part of his heart, Monsignor Trench is also remembered for his kindness toward all.

Ruth Plock belongs to Our Lady of Poland Roman Catholic Church on Maple Street, but she went to pay her respects to Monsignor Trench this week, in large part, because of an act of priestliness that she remembers well. Monsignor Trench, she said, rose from his bed early in the morning one day to say Mass when her son died. “I never forgot,” she said. “That’s being a priest. That’s giving. That’s compassionate.”

Other mourners reflected on additional ways the priest had inspired them. At Communion, for example, he would always take his time cleaning the chalice afterward, allowing time for reflection, parishioner Elaine McDonagh recalled. “That was the most special thing,” she said. “He just slowed everything down, made everyone collect themselves and remember what they were receiving.”

His legacy lives on, in part, in the church itself. One of his most visible accomplishments is the renovation of the church and parish buildings, a project he spearheaded after joining the church.

In 2007, Monsignor Trench celebrated his 50th anniversary in the priesthood, the centennial anniversary of his church, and the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which includes 133 Catholic churches in Nassau and Suffolk counties. In an interview in The Press, the priest said that the parish was “absolutely broke” and that he had to borrow to make payroll. He acknowledged that the “worst thing a priest could do when they get there is talk money.” Yet, he did. And the people listened: Local contractors donated services and, after raising about $1.5 million, a renovation was complete and the church was debt free.

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What a great man, what a loss
By Jac-man (21), Southampton on Mar 17, 12 2:30 PM
1 member liked this comment
We've lost a great man. R.I.P. Father Trench.
By Lets go mets (359), Southampton on Mar 17, 12 2:49 PM
A tremendous loss to the entire Southampton Community! Rest in Peace!
By Robert I Ross (247), Hampton Bays on Mar 17, 12 4:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
A wonderful person to be around, one of the most genuine people I've ever met. He will be missed.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 17, 12 5:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am saddened by the passing of Monseignor Trench, A great loss to all in the community, and particularly to the young people.
By joan s (53), hampton bays on Mar 17, 12 8:26 PM
R.I.P. Father Trench
By GASMAN (7), SOUTHAMPTON on Mar 18, 12 1:10 AM
One of my favorite people. RIP Father.
By dnice (2345), Hampton Bays on Mar 18, 12 9:57 AM
Rest in peace, Monsignor Trench.
By wmlocal (3), Water Mill on Mar 18, 12 10:59 AM
such a loving and compassionate man..... truly giving of himself, not because of his "job", but just because that is who is was.... such an incredible loss....rest in peace....he will be missed...
By honeylamb (71), East Quogue on Mar 18, 12 5:31 PM
A credit to the Catholic Church. A credit to Southampton, A wonderful man. We were truly blessed by his presence in our lives.

By baywoman (163), southampton on Mar 18, 12 10:48 PM
What a ctholic priest s,hould be,,,caring,upfront,kind,RIP Fr Trench,you did make a deffirence and you will be missed,
By Etians rd (527), Southampton on Mar 19, 12 4:09 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Mar 20, 12 10:44 PM
May all the churches ring their bells throughout the village to signal a respectful and heartfelt farewell to Monsignor Trench.
By linative (7), Lugoff on Mar 21, 12 8:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
What a great and wonderful man to have known; we were really blessed to have him among us.
By M. O'Connor (147), Southampton on Mar 21, 12 9:56 AM
Requiescat in pace.
By Mr. Z (11374), North Sea on Mar 22, 12 8:59 PM
Father Trench enriched the lives of thousands of people. He brought to Southampton a spirit of ecumenism and to Sacred Hearts Parish a vitality
and a spiritual motivation which involved many parishioners in stewardship.
He modeled the spirit of Christianity.
By MMMW (1), Southampton on Mar 29, 12 11:31 AM