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An Active Retirement for 90-Year-Old Jesuit

October 6, 2014 — While many aim to retire in their 60s, Jesuit Father Paul McCarthy went a few decades longer. At age 90, he recently retired after 14 years at Saint Thomas More Parish in Sandy, Utah, a ministry he began after many years in academia. But Fr. McCarthy, who joined the Jesuits in 1944 at age 20, plans to remain active in retirement.

Fr. McCarthy will play the organ for his new community’s religious services and is looking forward to catching up on his reading, particularly books on language and music. He hopes to read commentaries on the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. “The lives of the saints are always interesting,” he said. “They give you a big lift.”

Fr. McCarthy’s superior suggested the move to the Murray-Weigel community in New York last year, “and it felt right,” Fr. McCarthy said. “They like us to come in while we can offer something to the community.”

Fr. McCarthy was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus in 1957. He was a chemistry professor for 35 years: first at Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, New Jersey, and then at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.

“I did enjoy teaching, especially if you got students who were excited about chemistry. They were rare, but I got some occasionally,” he said. Additionally, Fr. McCarthy enjoyed doing chemical research, especially during his sabbaticals at the Ørsted Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the University of Bern in Switzerland. Being a researcher “was really stimulating, and you keep up with your field if you’re doing something at least minimally original.”

In 1975, he visited the Diocese of Salt Lake City to help fill in for diocesan priests. One of the things that attracted Fr. McCarthy to Utah, other than the ministry, was skiing, which he kept up until about three years ago. As the years went on, Fr. McCarthy began teaching only half of the academic year; the remainder of the time was spent in parishes in Utah. In 2000, he became a permanent resident in Salt Lake City. After 35 years in academia, “I didn’t want to do any more teaching, certainly, and the research was petering out, so I said, ‘I’ll work out here [in Utah],’ and I became a parish priest,” Fr. McCarthy said. “I’ve enjoyed the parish work very much, helping people.”

According to Fr. McCarthy, the best part of being a parish priest is presiding at the liturgy, as well as celebrating the other sacraments with the people. “I think I’ve been of some help to people, done some good,” he said. “I’m humbled by the fact that they say, ‘We’re going to miss you.’ I’m just an ordinary priest.” [Source: Intermountain Catholic





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