BUTLER, N.J. — Jeremiah McGinley, OFM, observed his birthday earlier this month, and at 82, the only things he seems to have retired are his golf clubs. He continues to celebrate his 55-year ministry by working at churches, using his gifted voice, and supporting fundraisers.
“Technically I’m retired, but I’m still working,” said Jeremiah from St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J. “But I won’t hibernate and listen to my arteries harden.”
He gave the invocation late this summer at the 34th Annual Covenant House Golf Outing and Dinner to benefit the large New York City agency that serves homeless, runaway and at-risk youth. Jeremiah has been involved with the event for 25 years.
“I’ve been involved since its inception,” he said. “I knew the guys who started it and now it raises $120,000.” The fundraiser was held at the Spring Lake Golf and Country Club in Spring Lake, N.J.
He is also the chaplain to the South Monmouth County Bar Association in New Jersey. Just last week, he led the group in prayer at its annual convocation and seminar at the Spring Lake Country Club on Oct. 21. The motto of the association is “Justitia aequalis, sub lege, proxima mare: Equal justice under the law, near the sea,” Jeremiah said.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native continues to work at churches in New Jersey, helping out at St. Bonaventure in Paterson and St. Anne in Fair Lawn, a former Franciscan parish. “I go to St. Anne’s three times a week, and every other weekend. The diocesan pastor likes me and I go back there and fill in.”
A graduate of St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., Jeremiah spent 1985 to 2005 working at St. Anne’s. The parish was one of the largest and most vibrant in New Jersey, and when the friars left in 2005 it was called the end of an era by some, he said.
Church work is close to Jeremiah’s heart, and although he was named for the Biblical prophet, he said with a laugh, “There’s no prophet in me.” His first assignment after ordination was at St. Stephen of Hungary Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City.
Mission Band Ministry
The ministry that he most enjoyed over the years, however, was his participation in the Province’s Mission Band, a ministry based in the West where friars traveled to parishes giving retreats and preaching missions.
Jeremiah, or “Moose,” a nickname that has stuck since he was a teen, was based at St. Elizabeth’s Parish in Denver, Colo., in 1959 and traveled by train and bus throughout Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, and Wyoming, spreading the Gospel.
“I was a young kid, and I was wet behind the ears as far as preaching missions,” he said previously about this ministry. But in retrospect, he said that this was one of his favorite assignments. “I ate it up like a hungry hound.”
He continued to work on the Mission Band when he was transferred to Butler, and spent 26 years traveling the East Coast. “This ministry was geared for me and I loved it.”
Gifted with a singing voice, Jeremiah can still belt out a tune, and is fond of Irish music and culture. He has been known to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day parade, every now and then, and is sometimes asked by St. Anne’s to serve as the master of ceremonies for its March 17 festivities.
“I’ve used my voice for many years and have sung in various places up and down the East Coast.” He recently attended the concert at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City to benefit its breadline and even brought a few friends.
Through all his ministerial work, Jeremiah said he most enjoyed being part of Holy Name Province, and feels pride in the accomplishments of its work.
He has enjoyed being part of the fraternity and relishes conversation in the friary rec room. “I enjoy the friars very much and think I still contribute to the repartee.”
What would he most want people to know about him? “I’m still active and always on the go.”
HNP Today can attest to this fact. When we first reached him by phone, he picked up on his cell while driving up New Jersey’s busy Garden State Parkway in rush hour. “Call me back when I’m not in the car,” he asked.
— Wendy Healy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.