Father Roy McGinn
Funeral Homily at La Salle Manor Friday January 9, 2009
by Msgr. Vincent Foy
Your Excellency and dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It was just on Sunday, Oct 5th of last year that we celebrated the priesthood and the seventy years of priesthood of Father Roy McGinn.
Now we more fittingly reflect on the priesthood and death, with special reference to Father McGinn, who died on the Feast of Blessed Brother Andre of Montreal, January 6th. This was a most fitting day. Father McGinn, like Brother Andre, had great devotion to St. Joseph and was ordained on the Feast of St. Joseph.
His dear cousin Bernice, with us today, told me that she prayed he would go on that day.
The Priest and Death
The priest is no stranger to death. If he did not witness death first-hand before his ordination, he certainly witnessed it soon after. He sees death in its myriad ways – the death of the very young and the very old; death by slow disease and its sudden visitation; death by natural causes and tragic accident; peaceful death and painful death; death of the poor and death of the rich; of those prepared and those not prepared; of those near and dear and total strangers; death accompanied by many tears and death without a single tear. All obey the call of the Angel of Death.
Every time a priest witnesses death or celebrates a funeral or stands praying by a graveside he is reminded that before very long he also will be called to face God in judgement. He knows, as do us all, that on that awesome day nothing, nothing matters except how we stand in the order of grace.
The Companions of Death
No one who has reached the age of reason goes before God alone. He carries with him all his words and works, his faults and sins, his failings and virtues. For these he must give an account to a merciful but just judge.
The priest is singularly blessed in the advocates of mercy he takes to judgement. There are the many he has baptized and brought to grace. There are thousands who heard from him, speaking in Christ’s place and with His power, “I absolve you from your sins.” St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that the absolution of a sinner is a greater miracle than the creation of the world. There are the many facing death that he has anointed with the saving oil of chrism. There are those whose marriages he witnessed with the blessing of the church. There are his instructions, his counselings, his acts of charity, and his visits to the sick. Above all there is the supreme act of the sacrifice of our salvation made present through the Mass. What sublime companions to take to judgement!
Still we must not think that the priest does not need our prayers. Like all the children of Adam and Eve, save our Blessed Mother, he has his sins for which he must make amends. We ought to remember often the priests who have been the instruments of so much good in our spiritual lives.
The Priesthood of Fr. Roy McGinn
Today we celebrate the nearly seventy-one years of priesthood of Father Roy McGinn.
He was born on the Feast of Saints Cornnelius and Cyprian September 16, 1915 in St. Helen’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 his 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 19th, 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, the Church of the Forty Martyrs of Japan at Bradford and St. Paul’s parish, Alliston.
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, Then he went to Providence Villa and after that to La Salle Manor about fourteen years ago. Here, bearing the cross of near total paralysis for some years, he awaited God’s call, which came last Tuesday. A deep debt of gratitude is owed to the Brothers, nurses and caregivers of La Salle Manor who gave him true dedicated care. One caregiver told me Fr. McGinn was her favourite patient.
Thanks also to Jack and Bernice Theurer, who helped him over many years, and Deacon Sal Badali who assisted him in many ways. Thanks also for the help of Marisa Rogucki, Director of Archdiocesan care for retired priests.
Soon Fr. McGinn’s mortal remains will join those of classmates and priest-friends at Mary Queen of the Clergy cemetery at St. Augustine’s Seminary. His grave will be marked with a little stone giving his name, date of ordination and date of death. His true 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.