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Heart Attack Fells Priest During Christmas Sermon

December 26, 1987

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ An assistant pastor died of a heart attack after collapsing in front of 400 people while delivering his Christmas Mass sermon, the church pastor said.

The Rev. Frank Harrington, 78, was taken from St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church at Gonzaga University to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where he died soon afterward of cardiac arrest, a nursing supervisor said.

″Father Harrington was at the end of his homily, and he simply passed out at his pulpit,″ said the pastor, the Rev. Thomas Royce, who was standing with the choir at the time. ″A deacon and several parishioners rushed to help him.

″They stretched him out on the sanctuary floor and began CPR (cardiopulmonar y resuscitation), but it was too late.″

Royce said many began crying while others watched in stunned silence. One woman began saying a rosary for the fallen priest, and others soon joined in prayer, he said.

A shocked member of the congregation, Agnes Nolden, 78, also collapsed and was taken to Sacred Heart, where she was treated and released. She spent the rest of Christmas Day at home in bed resting, said her husband, Marvin Nolden.

Royce said that the Mass continued. He said he took consolation in the timing of his colleague’s death.

″It was a wonderful time for him to go,″ the pastor said. ″He was talking during his homily about how the birth of Jesus Christ had blessed our lives, and he talked about the peace and joy that God delivers to us which allows us to go home.

″That’s when (Rev. Harrington) went home - home to the Father.″

Harrington, a Butte, Mont., native, had a history of heart problems, including a heart attack five years ago, Royce said.

He was with Gonzaga University for more than 20 years, serving as dean of men at the Jesuit school in the 1950s and ’60s, and had been assistant pastor for about a year, Royce said.

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