Fr. Jeremiah McGinley, OFM
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Fr. Jeremiah “Moose” McGinley, OFM, first met the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province in the mid 1940s, while he was attending PS 72 grammar school in Buffalo and the friars at the time were serving at nearby St. Patrick’s Parish.
Although Fr. Jeremiah didn’t attend St. Patrick’s, he recalled the Franciscan influence on the neighborhood and the respect both his parents and grandparents had for those particular friars and others who entered into religious life.
“The friars were really good guys and they were very dedicated,” he said. “They had spirit.” It was during his high school years at Canisius that Fr. Jeremiah had expressed interest in becoming a friar. It was also during that time he was give the nickname “Moose,” a moniker that stuck with him throughout his 54-plus years as a Franciscan.
Fr. Jeremiah explained the name was coined when he and a high school friend attended a movie one Saturday afternoon. His colleague noticed during the film, that Fr. Jeremiah closely resembled a character named Moose and the rest, as they say, is history.
“This guy also said, ‘You got a nose like a moose,’” Fr. Jeremiah recalled. “He went to school that following Monday and the story just grew. The nickname stuck more than any others as a youngster.”
When he attended St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., Fr. Jeremiah began studying philosophy. Soon after being around influential and inspirational friars like the now deceased Franciscans Fr. Colman Dunn, OFM, Fr. Peter Carr, OFM, Fr. Silas Rooney, OFM, and Fr. Celsus Wheeler, OFM, he decided to think about his calling to the priesthood. He was graduated from St. Bonaventure with a degree in philosophy in 1950, and during that time he became more serious about his life as a friar.
“I had an attraction to their way of life,” he said. “I was attracted to their camaraderie with one another and their spirit. It’s really indescribable to put into words.”
Fr. Jeremiah entered Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., and was ordained a priest in 1955. His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Stephen’s on 82nd Street in New York City. Although he enjoyed parish life, it was apparent that both he and then Provincial Minster Celsus Wheeler (who served from 1952 to 1961) had different plans for his ministry. Moose was then assigned to serve on the Mission Band, a ministry where a friar would travel to various parishes giving retreats and preaching missions.
Fr. Jeremiah was based at St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Denver, Colorado, and for a good portion of 1959, he traveled by train and bus throughout Texas, Colorado, Louisiana and Wyoming spreading the good news of the Lord.
“I was a young kid, and I was wet behind the ears as far as preaching missions,” he said. “I wasn’t hesitant about jumping on and off trains and going to all of these places.”
After preaching the missions out West, Fr. Jeremiah continued his ministry with the Mission Band, but this time he was based out of St. Anthony’s Friary in Butler, N.J.
Before he knew it, he had more than 25 years in the ministry, before he returned to parish life – this time at St. Anne’s in Fair Lawn, N.J. From 1985 to 2005, Fr. Jeremiah served as an associate, a vicar and a senior associate friar at the parish, one of the largest Catholic churches in the Newark archdiocese, with more than 6,000 registered families in the late 1960s.
This past year, the friars left St. Anne’s, after serving the parish for more than 95 years. “It was the end of an era when the friars left,” he said. Even though the friars left St. Anne’s, its current pastor, Fr. Joseph Doyle, told Fr. Jeremiah he is welcome to visit the school and parish anytime he feels the need.
Fr. Jeremiah, 77, is now semi-retired and resides at Sacred Heart Friary in East Rutherford. He continues to say Mass at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J. and occasionally returns to St. Anne’s to greet the grammar school children to offer them his blessings. “I miss being in parish life sometimes because I’m still energetic,” he said. “I guess it’s in my nature to keep moving around.”
—This essay was written in 2006 when Fr. “Moose” was serving at Sacred Heart Friary in East Rutherford, N.J. It appeared in the March 2006 issue of The Anthonian magazine.