I just learned today of the death of my first pastor as a newly ordained priest. Fr. Joe “Mac” McNally. As any priest will quickly tell you, the ‘first pastor’ leaves a lasting impression; some good, and some not! I was blessed mine was all good!
Mac was the second pastor of a fairly new parish on the south side of Indianapolis, St. Barnabas. Shortly after I arrived, the founding pastor had a stroke, and Fr. Mac came to me and said: “Paul, I want Fr. Sciarra to move back into the rectory with us.” I said: “Great!”
The two years I spent with Fr. Mac and Fr. Sciarra were two of the best years of my priesthood…and I’ve had some great ones. I’ve known few other priests who took such interest in and such great care of his brother priests. He was always calling, visiting, checking in on the ‘guys’ just to visit, but was particularly in touch when he knew one of the priests may be struggling.
Because of this, many a time priests would call him for his advice or simply to share what was going on in their life and ministry.
He had many friends and a very large extended family. I think just about every night when I would head up to my room, he would get on the phone and start ‘touching base’ with the many phone messages left for him throughout the day. He had a great love for God’s people, and was tremendously compassionate and empathetic.
I loved the evenings in the rectory, when he and I would get back after all the meetings. We would sit together with Fr. Sciarra in the living room and the two of them would start telling stories of their young days as a priest. We would sit and laugh the evenings away. What great memories.
Of course, as a newly ordained priest, Mac was always asking how I was doing, and how things went after the many ‘firsts’ of priesthood. I remember after one Sunday, he asked how the preaching was going. As many of my former parishioners will recall, occasionally, I would show some emotion… The first time I got a little emotional while preaching, it really took me off guard. I told Mac, “I kind of teared up.” He said: “Good God, Paul, don’t let them see your humanity!” How ironic coming from a priest whose humanity was always so evident!
Mac was no stranger to free time. He loved Notre Dame football. Many a Saturday afternoon when it was his turn to hear confessions, he would yell out from the living room: “Paul, get over to church and hear confessions. ND is behind and I can’t leave the TV!” He also enjoyed fishing, golf, and his time at the cabin.
Seems he was always on some diocesan committee or another. He was a generous servant of the Church, a great listener, and good counselor.
Mac, I hope you know now how much you were loved and how many already miss you. Thank you for being such a great priest, and for being such a fine pastor for me as a young priest and to the many people whom you served. Rest in peace, my friend. May the Father embrace you and welcome you into His Eternal Kingdom.