Deacon Ed Lynch exudes energy and good humor. It’s an approach to life that’s evident through his 73 years of education; marriage of more than 50 years to Aline D’Iorio, and their raising of three children — Edmund, Teresa and Leslie; 49 years as a lawyer; 27 years as an ordained deacon; and his avocations as a marathon runner and third-degree black belt karate competitor.
Family, career and church is the order of commitment the church expects from its deacons, and it’s a path Lynch is happy to follow.
That way has lead Lynch to be honored this weekend by the Diocese of Wilmington’s St. Thomas More Society, an ecumenical group of lawyers and other members of the judiciary that promotes the English martyr’s ethical practice of the law and steadfastness in his faith.
Frank Lynch, a founder of the Wilmington civil engineering firm Vandemark & Lynch, surveyed his son’s path first.
“My father decided early on I was not going to be an engineer,” Lynch recalled recently, adding he didn’t consider studying law until he was in college.
However, his legal inclination might have had some genetic prompting; his mother’s (Mary Hellings) father had been a municipal court judge.
Growing up in Christ Our King Parish in Wilmington, young F. Edmund was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph in the parish school and the Oblates at Salesianum.
“One of the biggest influences I had at Sallies was my typing teacher,” he said. “Father [Albert J.] Gondek, God bless him, because I type all my legal documents. I do wills and trusts. It’s easier for me to type them on the computer now than to teach the secretaries. It’s the kiss of death for me to train a secretary. As soon as I train her, she leaves. So I said, ‘I’m going to put my Sallies training to work.’”
Lynch admits his schoolwork at Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., wasn’t always a top priority.
“I was a history major and majored in having fun,” he said. “You could get away with that in the early ’60s.”
Then, his hopes for law school after graduating from the Mount in 1962 almost took a wrong turn.
“I was a trumpet player,” Lynch recalled. “We had a Maynard Ferguson concert the night before the LSATs (law school admission test). My girlfriend, now my wife, was up for the weekend. I did not do very well in the LSATs.”
Lynch applied to a variety of law schools.
“I wrote a letter to apply to the University of Virginia. I had no shot of getting into the University of Virginia.”
He didn’t know UVA was in Charlottesville, either.
“So I wrote a letter to the University of Virginia, Richmond, Va. To show how God works, somehow it got to the University of Richmond, which I’d never heard of, and they didn’t require any law board exams.”
Accepted at Richmond, “I finally studied,” Lynch said. “I made the honor society and everything else.”
He also married Aline between first and second year law. “That’s what probably calmed me down.”
Passing the bar after receiving his law degree in 1965, Lynch worked for Howard Handelman at Bayard, Brill, Russell and Handelman.
Although he had not taken any tax courses at Richmond, Lynch, with help from Handelman, became interested in administering estates and wills.
“I’ve always liked to do that because you’re not fighting somebody all the time,” Lynch said. “Particularly, when you’re administering an estate you’re helping people at a really tough time in their life. I really enjoy doing that. I’ve probably written 5,000 to 10,000 wills.”
Lynch became a partner at Bayard, then a partner at Ament, Lynch and Carr and is now a partner at Woloshin, Lynch, Natalie & Gagne in Wilmington.
Lynch’s vocation as a deacon “is a natural evolution of his desire to be of service to the church,” the pastor said. “He’s always very cooperative and ready to lend a hand when necessary.”
Lynch, who was a member of the diocese’s second class of permanent deacons who were ordained in 1987, said his involvement with the church increased after a Cursillo retreat he took in 1978.
“Father Tom Hanley was the spiritual director of that weekend,” Lynch recalled. “Father John Hynes was there. It was good. It was special.”
Afterward, Lynch started attending morning Masses at Salesianum when he dropped his son off at school. Deacon Jim Haley, a member of the first deacon class who died last year, often assisted at the Sallies’ Mass where Lynch saw “what he did from a liturgical standpoint.”
When Lynch started training for the permanent diaconate, he heard a “classmate,” now-retired Deacon Austin Snow, say he was going to get up half an hour early every morning during Lent to pray.
“That really started me,” Lynch said. “I now get up an hour earlier before I leave for church and Mass … a holy half hour.”
That half hour has come during years Lynch has served as president of the Deacons Council; volunteered at Emmanuel Dining Room breakfasts; run in 15 marathons [best time in Boston, 3 hrs., 3 minutes, 13 seconds]; practiced karate after his knees were done with running; and preached twice a week at his parish — where he also runs the RCIA program; “all the baptism preparation and all the adult confirmation preparation.” Msgr. Rebman said the deacon also oversees St. Joseph on the Brandywine’s annual stewardship program and serves as the parish attorney.
Along the way, Lynch attended a meeting in 1988 called by a client of his, the late Msgr. Paul J. Taggart. The session was the start of the St. Thomas More Society for legal professionals in the diocese, which sponsored its first Red Mass for lawyers, judges and legal professionals that year. His honor from the society at the May 18 dinner is named for Msgr. Taggart.
Lynch sees being a lawyer and deacon as similar.
“Both groups like helping people,” he said. “We have the confidentiality that the clergy have. Lawyers carry out the law. People who work for the church have certain laws they’re also supposed to follow.”
With all his church and law commitments, and with all his energy and stick-to-itiveness he learned from marathons and karate, Lynch said he has no plans to retire from law. And he’s certainly committed to his faith and the church for the entire race.
However, “you always wonder whether or not you’re doing enough,” the lawyer-deacon said.
“Why am I spending time watching television, when I could be doing something else? That bothers me sometimes, but I just try to give a good example.
“You never know how something you say is going to affect somebody. I’ve had people come up to me and say after a homily I didn’t think was particularly good, ‘You said something, that was a great homily. I needed to hear that.’
“That’s always one of the fringe benefits.”