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home : opinion : perspectives

11/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
Memorial for a deacon

(Editor's note: Father O'Connor delivered this homily at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Americas in Albany during a memorial Mass June 24 for his friend Deacon Eugene McNamara, a retired deacon of the Albany Diocese who had died on Christmas Day at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. The deacon, who served at the shrine church for many years in its former incarnation as St. Patrick's parish, is survived by his wife, Joan, nine children and many friends, who ­attended the memorial.)

In 1982, Jill Uris published, "Ireland, a Terrible Beauty." In the book were many wonderful scenes of Ireland. One of the photographs was of a bewhiskered Irishman with no teeth, holding a scythe. There was a grin on his face and a twinkle in his eye. The words beneath the picture read, "Take a good look at me. You'll never see the life of me again."

For sure, we'll never see the life of Eugene Patrick McNamara again. He was a man of song, of stories and laughter; a man with a large, tender, loving heart and a twinkle in his eyes. He was a man of faith. If Hollywood ever discovered him, he would have been the most famous, loved man who ever lived -- with the exception of Jesus -- but, thanks be to God, he never was discovered.

Gene was a family man. He could never believe he had such a wonderful friend as his wife, Joan. He was and still is proud and so grateful for his children, Kevin and Kathleen, Michael and Brian, Eileen and Tommy, Mary and Barbara and Benadette. He loved each of them so dearly.

Gene always spoke with deep affection for his father, Tommy Mac. He loved to tell the story of the day he ended up on the living room floor looking up at his father. His father was shouting out at him, "And I suppose you call me 'the old man.'" Of course, Gene had spoken out of turn. He loved to speak of watching his father kneeling by his bed, saying his night prayers.

He loved his sister, Mary, and his brother, Tommy, and Eileen, and Barbara, who died as a child.

His mother, Mary Brigid, was special. She, too, was full of laughter and deep faith. He loved her dearly.

Jesus tells us that, unless we become like little children, we can't enter the kingdom of heaven. Gene had a wonderful "childlikeness" about him. It came through especially in his faith, as well as his loving heart.

The day he was ordained a deacon was like a dream come true for Gene, and right to the end it meant so much to him. He had great friends among the deacons.

It was only a couple of weeks after he and Joan married that he shipped off to Korea. It was then that he met his friend Rev. Emil Kapaun again. Father Kapaun, a U.S. Army chaplain who died in a prisoner of war camp, had a profound effect on Gene's life. Gene served his country faithfully and with great distinction.

Gene's faith and his marriage were the heart of his life. How he loved St. Therese of Lisieux, the "Little Flower," and her "little way." She is now a Doctor of the Church, but it was her simplicity that attracted him to her.

Gene loved the Church, warts and all. He loved the Mass, especially the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He loved Cursillo and the Cursillo community.

I'd like to go on about Aunt Gert and the Blue Room and Astoria and the Mac and Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas cake and Gene's golden singing voice and "My Darling Come to Me" and Castleblarney...but maybe there'll be another day for that.

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