In February, the Pensacola area lost one of its most high-profile clergymen. Father Jack Gray, the man called “Father Jack” and “The Roaming Catholic", passed away at Baptist Hospital from complications following heart surgery. He was 68 years old.
Gray was ordained a Catholic priest at the age of 42 after careers in business, politics and broadcasting. He served parishes and schools in the Florida Panhandle, including 16 years as pastor of St. Ann’s in Pensacola.
After retiring from St. Ann’s in 2009, Gray became the Catholic chaplain aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola.
In his later years, politics also remained among the many issues that filled Father Jack’s plate. Speaking on WUWF-TV’s “Coming of Age” program in 2010, he talked about the politics of aging with regard to Medicare and Social Security.
“The politicians always want to tinker with programs like ours,” said Gray. “And whatever your political beliefs are, if you’ve gone through your whole life and planned for the benefits you think you’ve paid into over your career, you hope that that Social Security Program and Medicare will still be available once you reach the magic age.”
In July, Father Peter McLaughlin from St. Michael the Archangel Basilica succeeded Gray as the Catholic Chaplain aboard NAS Pensacola. But Monsignor Michael Reed says “Father Jack” left behind shoes that will not be totally filled.
“There was one Father Jack Gray….and there will never be another Father Jack Gray,” said Reed.