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Longtime Athens priest dies from wreck injuries

By Evan Belanger ∑ 340-2442

ATHENS — A longtime par-ish priest at Athensí St. Paulís Catholic Church died Saturday after sustaining injuries in a two-vehicle accident in Troy.

The Rev. Joseph Crawford Allen, 80, was treated at the scene of the accident on U.S. 231, where his Ford Crown Victoria was struck broadside by a Dodge Ram 1500 truck, according to news reports.

Witnesses said Father Allen was attempting to enter the highway from a BP gas station parking lot. He died later that day at Troy Medical Center.

Church officials said Father Allen, who retired as St. Paulís parish priest in 2004 but still resided at the church, was en route to visit friends in Florida. The cause of the accident was still under investigation, the Troy Police Department reported.

An autopsy will be performed in Mobile to determine whether Father Allen suffered a heart attack, church secretary Robin Shaw said.

Father Allen was ordained into the priesthood Dec. 16, 1950, in Birmingham. He held a masterís degree in philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

After playing a key role in establishing the Birmingham diocese in the 1960s, he became the Athens parish priest in 1989. He expanded the church during his tenure, building a worship center in 1992 and a church hall in 1996.

He is also credited with building a rectory, expanding classroom space and remodeling the older of two chapels.

Parishioners and co-workers remembered him for brilliance as a church leader and for great compassion.

ďHe was so non-judgmental,Ē Shaw said. ďHe had such unconditional love. He just accepted people the way they were, and he was always so generous. You could never outgive him.Ē

Father Allen was also renowned for his religious-inspired poetry, which he often recited during Mass.

Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Thursday at St. Paulís in Athens. Funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Paulís Cathedral in Birmingham.

Burial will be in his family plot in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, where several other Roman Catholic priests are buried.

ďI just think this must have all been part of Godís plan and Godís will for this to happen this way,Ē Shaw said.

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