September 17, 2022
I learned this evening of the death of Bishop Robert Maginnis this past Wednesday. I thought immediately of a moment several years ago that touched my heart very deeply.
About eight years ago, I unexpectedly encountered a priest acquaintance after a hiatus of nearly forty years. He had come to McAuley Convent, our health and retirement facility, to visit his longtime assistant, Sister Mary Antonita. Deceased now, Sister was at that time a stately 96 years old, but living with the compromises of advanced years. Himself in his late eighties, he walked very slowly down the corridor toward me, and I paused to see if I could help.
Greeting him, I recognized something about his eyes, but could not really place him. He paused, catching some labored breaths, and studied my eyes too. “Give me a minute,” he said, quickly following it with “Nathaniel”, my old religious name.
He had the advantage over me, so I just honestly requested, “Help me out with your name.” He simply replied, “Maginnis”. As a wealth of memory and understanding opened in my mind, I smiled and said, “How good to see you again, Maginnis, after all these years.”
You see, this was:
Robert Patrick Maginnis,
an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church
who served as Auxiliary Bishop
of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
from 1996 to 2010.
But the person I saw, as soon as he said his name, was a humble, good man who had served God’s people with generosity and grace. I hadn’t seen him face to face since he was simply “Father”- when I was green with youth and he was just a shade or two deeper! Soft memories of shared times shimmered in my memory… but it was a long time ago.
Still I knew, the way a local Church knows its shepherds, that he had never abandoned his gentle simplicity for the exalted trappings of episcopacy. He had remained a man who fulfilled Pope Francis’s best hopes for priests:
“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd,
who did not come to be served,
but to serve and to seek and save what was lost…“
Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ, solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, other interests.”
(Pope Francis in a homily before the ordination of 16 priests
during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica April 22, 2018)
And here “Maginnis” was that Saturday, having endured his own challenges with aging, making the effort necessary to visit his faithful friend. As I left them in the warm light by her window, my spirit was confirmed by a grace neither one of them realized they were continuing to give, so natural was their witness to Christian love and service.
Let’s pray for all our priests today, and especially in thanksgiving for Bishop Maginnis. These troubled times have been so hard on good priests like this beloved bishop. May they be strengthened and confirmed in their desire to serve Christ through serving his People.
May Robert Maginnis, a good and holy priest, rest in glory. Amen.