Guitar-playing priest made everyone feel special

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The Catholic Register

Tuesday, 25 August 2009 02:09

Written by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

TORONTO – People always felt lucky to know Fr. Paul McCarthy. He served in seven Toronto parishes in 42 years of priesthood and left friends in every one of them.

At 67 Fr. McCarthy died of cancer at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket on Aug. 5.

At St. Augustine’s Seminary in the 1960s, Fr. McCarthy was the bright, popular man who helped Fr. John Vella learn to play guitar.

“He was my inspiration to learn to play,” recalled Vella in an Internet posting.

“He brought out the best in all those who worked with him and for him,” recalled Our Lady of Grace parishioner Susan Pratt.

“He had the best sense of humour,” remembered Mary Clarke, a former St. Patrick’s parishioner from Markham. “He could play guitar and sing too. His sermons were the best.”

Now 51, Paul Rellinger remembers how Fr. McCarthy transformed St. John’s parish in the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto by starting a youth group when Rellinger was just 16.

“He was young and progressive — forward thinking,” Rellinger told The Catholic Register from Peterborough, Ont. “We had dances every Sunday. He got people involved. I started going to church again. It was just a natural byproduct. You just wanted to be there.”

For Rellinger and his teenaged friends in the 1970s, Fr. McCarthy represented not just a church they could believe in, but a church that believed in them.

“Without him being there at that particular point in my life I would probably have never have gone back. He was really the difference.”

But Fr. McCarthy wasn’t just there for the youth, said Rellinger.

“As much as he related to the young people, my mom and dad, they loved him. He was really personable. And they loved what he was able to do for the church,” Rellinger said.

Fr. McCarthy was ordained in 1967 by Archbishop Philip Pocock. He served as an associate pastor at St. Paul’s Basilica, St. John’s, St. Patrick’s in Markham and St. Justin Martyr in Unionville. He was pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Aurora, St. Christopher’s in Mississauga and Sacred Heart in Uxbridge.

His parents, Justin and Josephine, and his brother, Peter, died before him. He leaves behind his brothers Justin and Thomas with their wives Catherine and Katie May. He was an uncle to Martha, Peter, Patrick, Mary Jo, Justin and Paul.

He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill.


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