Father Roy McGinn, 70 Years a Priest
Homily of Msgr. Vincent Foy, Sunday October 5, 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we are celebrating the Priesthood and the seventy years of Priesthood of Father Roy McGinn.
The Priesthood is a vast subject. Thousands of books have been written about it. Thousands of sermons have been preached about it. It is concisely treated in the Decree on the Life and Ministry of the Priest of Vatican II called Presbyterorum Ordinis of December 7, 1965.
It treats of: the Nature of the Priesthood, the Function of Priests as Ministers of God’s Word, as Ministers of the Sacraments and the Eucharist, of their Brotherly Bond and Co-operation among Priests, of the Relation of Priests with lay People, of the Priests Call to Holiness, especially Humility and Obedience, and much more.
We see how vast and deep is the subject of the Priesthood.
Now we take only a glancing look at the Priesthood. Even that brief glance shows us how great and essential is the Priesthood in God’s plan of salvation.
The Chalice of Joy and Consolation
A common symbol of the Priesthood is the Chalice – the Chalice and the Priesthood are intimately intertwined.
First, the Chalice of Joy and Consolation. Every priest drinks deeply of this chalice.
There is the joy of one’s vocation. It is the realization of a dream, often going back to childhood. There is the joy of caring for the sick and the dying, of bringing back to God prodigal sons and daughters, and of the fellowship of other priests and friends.
On the Sunday after my ordination in 1939, I visited the Lithuanian Church in Toronto at the pastor’s request. Fasting even from water from midnight, I sung the 11 a.m. High Mass, preached the homily, gave Holy Communion to the First Holy Communion class, enrolled them in the Scapular and gave Benediction. On the streetcar, coming home, still fasting, I was asked by a passenger: “Don’t you find it a hard task working for the Lord these days?” “Not really,” I replied. In fact, I was filled with joy at my priestly experience. All through the priesthood, one drinks of the chalice of joy and consolation.
The Chalice of Sorrow and Suffering
There is also the chalice of sorrow and suffering.
I think every priest has his own little Garden of Gethsemane, when he says, as did Christ “Father, if it be possible, let this Chalice pass from me.” Some suffering is common to all, like sickness and infirmity and the weakness of age. Some is more specific to the priesthood, like difficult appointments, difficulties with some priestly duties, or difficult parishioners and demands.
In all of these sufferings in his little Gethsemane, the priest is called to say “Thy Will be done.” He knows that he must follow Christ to Calvary and he knows that every lesson worth learning can be learned at the foot of the cross.
The Chalice of Salvation
Besides the chalice of joy and the chalice of suffering and sorrow, the priest offers up the Chalice of Salvation.
The evening before He died, Christ changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood and said to the Apostles, “Do this in memory of me.” Three days later, on the night of His resurrection, He said to the Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them, whose sins you shall retain they are retained.”
So the priesthood makes Christ present with all His salvific power throughout the world and every day. At his recent Mass in Paris, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Raise the Cup of Salvation!” The context of this talk was his plea for more vocations to the priesthood.
The power to consecrate the Body of Christ and the power to forgive sins are the greatest powers ever bestowed upon man.
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that, because of his great dignity, the priest has a special obligation to be holy, even beyond that required for the religious state.
But always, in offering up the Chalice of Salvation, the priest remembers that he is a priest, not primarily for himself, but for others, to lead others to God and Eternal Life.
The Priesthood of Fr. Roy McGinn
Today we celebrate the seventy years of priesthood of our companion Fr. Roy McGinn. In those seventy years, he drank deeply of the chalice of joy and suffering and salvation. He was born on the Feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian, September 16, 1915, in St. Monica’s parish, Toronto.
He spent his High School years in Our Lady of Lourdes parish, when the pastor was the great priest-poet Msgr. Dollard. He was never much at athletics because of poor sight but he was remembered for his brightness and cheerfulness.
In September of 1927, he entered De La Salle High School, Bond St., Toronto. If you look at the High School magazine, the Delescope for the years of 1927-1931, you will see that he was at the top or near the top of the class.
From Bond St. De La Salle he went to De La Salle Moore Park and graduated in 1931.
In the fall of 1931, he joyfully entered St. Augustine’s Seminary, under Archbishop Neil McNeil. There were then over one hundred and ninety seminarians. Every room was occupied. When he completed his six years of philosophy and theology he was only 22. The age for ordination was 24. He was assigned to live at St. Michael’s Cathedral rectory where he helped in the chancery office as notary in marriage cases. His great day of ordination came on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 15th, 1938, when he was ordained a priest at St. Augustine’s Seminary, by Archbishop James Charles McGuigan.
Here are some of his appointments: St. Michael’s Cathedral, Blessed Sacrament parish, Toronto, St. Lawrence Church, Scarborough, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Toronto, and the Church of the Forty Martyrs of Japan at Bradford.
His appointment to Bradford is typical of his priestly zeal and joy and dedication, though he was constantly afraid of going blind. At Bradford in the forties and fifties of the last century he built a new church and rectory. He also built a Catholic school and brought to Bradford a congregation of Sisters to teach there. To them, he gave the old rectory, a fine large house with a little tower.
In the parish, over twenty languages were spoken and at Christmas and Easter, Fr. McGinn arranged for about seven priests to hear confessions, each speaking at least two languages. The rectory was always an open house to his fellow priests. One could always be sure of a cheery welcome.
In his later years, he was pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, the Gore. It was a centre for neighbouring priests who often met there Friday evenings. I was among those who often gathered there for a social visit.
Finally, suffering from the ravages of age, he retired to St. Joseph’s Manor on Leslie St., Toronto, where I often visited him. Then to Providence Villa and then to the good care of La Salle Manor about thirteen years ago, where, bearing the cross of near total paralysis, he awaits God’s Call.
We celebrate today the priesthood of a truly dedicated priest. He drank deeply of the Chalice of the priesthood. His monument is the countless souls whom he helped on their way to God.
May we benefit from his example and rejoice in his service to God and Church and souls. Amen.