August 1, 2008

50 years of devotion

Father McNally says priesthood is an ‘extremely rewarding ministry’

Father J. Joseph McNally, left, and the late Father John Sciarra, the founding pastor of St. Barnabas Parish, pose for a picture with parish secretary Theresa Warner of Indianapolis on July 4, 2000. The parish’s Sciarra Center includes the gymnasium, the Atrium and McNally Hall, a large meeting and reception room. (Submitted photo)

Father J. Joseph McNally, left, and the late Father John Sciarra, the founding pastor of St. Barnabas Parish, pose for a picture with parish secretary Theresa Warner of Indianapolis on July 4, 2000. The parish’s Sciarra Center includes the gymnasium, the Atrium and McNally Hall, a large meeting and reception room. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: Six archdiocesan priests are celebrating their 50-year jubilees in 2008. This week, we conclude our series with stories on Fathers Herman Lutz and Joseph McNally.)

By Mary Ann Wyand

A wonderful life.

Father J. Joseph McNally smiles when he reflects on 50 years of priestly ministry serving God and the people of God at parishes and high schools in central and southern Indiana.

“They were wonderful, wonderful years,” Father McNally recalled. “I would do it all over again. It’s been a great experience for me. If you love people and like to be around them, [the priesthood] is one way of really getting to know a lot of people and trying to be helpful to them. It’s an extremely rewarding ministry.”

John Joseph McNally was a Leap Year baby. He was born on Feb. 29, 1932, in Indianapolis and baptized at Holy Cross Church.

“There were so many Johns in my family,” he said, “that I ended up being called Joseph.”

When he was 3 years old, his father died and his mother decided to move home with her parents to raise her three young sons in southern Indiana.

His childhood was happy with his mother, brothers and grandparents. They were members of St. Mary Parish in New Albany.

“Mother went to work and I was pretty much raised by my grandmother,” he said. “Her name was Theresia Trouy. She taught me how to pray and how to cook.”

A self-described “people person,” Father McNally said he thinks “it might be the Irish in me” that contributed to his decision to say “yes” to God’s call to the priesthood at the end of his eighth-grade year at St. Mary School in New Albany.

He also admired the pastor and associate pastors at his parish.

“I was influenced by the associate pastors there when I was in grade school,” he said. “They took me to visit Saint Meinrad. When I was in the fifth grade, I started having strong feelings for the priesthood. When I graduated from the eighth grade in 1946, I went to Saint Meinrad.”

Only once did he question his decision to study for the priesthood at Saint Meinrad’s high school seminary, college and school of theology.

During his college years, many of his friends enlisted in the armed forces to serve the United States in the Korean War.

“I would go home and all the young men my age were in the military,” he remembered. “Both of my brothers were in the service and they made it home, one with a Purple Heart. … I thought maybe I should drop out [of the seminary] and do the same thing, but I went back to Saint Meinrad and I’m glad that I did.”

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Paul C. Schulte on May 3, 1958, at Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

His first assignments were as an associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and a religion teacher at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School, both in Indianapolis. He still maintains friendships with his former students and tries to attend some of their class reunions.

In 1963, he was appointed associate pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish and a religion teacher at Schulte High School, both in Terre Haute.

“Those were five wonderful years at St. Margaret Mary Parish,” Father McNally said. “… I still have friends there that I stay in touch with. The grade school was still open at that time and the church was always full. It was a good time.”

In 1968, he was named student director at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville and associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg.

“I just had Mass there on weekends because I was [working] full time at the high school,” he said. “I was the counselor besides teaching. … I decided to go back to school so I enrolled at Spaulding College in Louisville and took a course in counseling psychology. I got my master’s degree from there and the University of Louisville.”

After Father Paul Gootee died, Father McNally served as the temporary administrator of St. Paul Parish.

In 1971, he was named pastor of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Jeffersonville after Father Robert Walpole’s death.

“I was still teaching at Providence so it was a busy time, but I was young and had the energy to do it,” Father McNally recalled. “My years at Sacred Heart were a good time. … The people there were wonderful to me, very accepting.”

His mother died in 1977. Also that year, he was named pastor of the former St. Columba Parish in Columbus. Ten years later, he was appointed co-pastor of St. Columba and St. Bartholomew parishes there.

“Those were wonderful, wonderful years, probably some of the best years of my priesthood in Columbus and then for 12 years at St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis,” Father McNally said. “That was a wonderful move for me in 1989. I love the people at St. Barnabas. They’ve been absolutely wonderful to me. Even in retirement, I’m still in touch with many of them. I still visit and help out there.”

Parish secretary Theresa Warner said it was “an honor” to work with Father McNally at St. Barnabas Parish for four years until he retired in 2002.

“He is always very present for people,” Warner said, “very friendly and outgoing, with a great personality, warm, caring and approachable, … a good Irish storyteller known for his jokes and fishing stories.”

For 25 years, Father McNally has enjoyed spending time at his cabin at East Lake of Prince’s Lake near Nineveh. His weekend retreat house became his

full-time residence when he retired six years ago.

A storm in early June caused the dam to fail, and the resulting floodwaters rushed to within 10 feet of his house. He thanked God for his good fortune then began consoling neighbors who sustained property damage from the flooding.

“The younger priests have been very good to me, especially those who have cabins at the lake,” Father McNally said. “They check on me. There’s really a fraternity among the priests. All of us are very close to each other.”

More about Father J. Joseph McNally

Age: 76

Parents: John P. and Mary Ann (Trouy) McNally

Parish where he grew up: St. Mary Parish in New Albany

Seminary: 12 years at Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad

Hobbies: Fishing, golf and traveling

Favorite Bible verses: Matthew 6:25-27: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”

Favorite prayers or devotions: The rosary and the Divine Office

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