Shepherd, Confidant, and Friend by Patricia M. Lazazzaro

Priest, leader, shepherd, confidant, friend. All of these titles belong to Father John J. McGratty, founding pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Manorville, New York.

I had the privilege of knowing this blessed man for over 30 years. During this time, he was a treasured friend of mine. I have fond memories of him that I will hold dear all my life. He married me to my beloved husband, and was our guest at our home for many dinners, when I could serve one of his favorite meals, pot roast and vegetables. Of course there was always an ample amount of chocolate at the dessert table.

I remember being a part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and when Father John’s schedule permitted, he would join us. Most of the time, he sat quietly listening to our discussions. But when needed, he would impart his wisdom, and we were grateful for his input.

There was a quiet, gentle, unassuming quality of presence about him. He loved serving his Saints Peter and Paul parishioners. They were his family.

I remember how sad he was when word came that he would be moved to another parish. In fact, all of us were very upset by this news, and we tried our best to have the order rescinded. We even requested the bishop allow us to have a meeting with a committee of selected clergy so we could present our pleadings and need to keep our beloved pastor. But the order remained, and Father John had to move on.

However, that did not destroy our friendship and love for him. Over the years we kept in close contact with him, and delighted when we saw him attend Sunday Mass as a visitor.

Father John became very ill, and had to go for monthly four-day treatments at the New York Cancer and Blood Center. I had the privilege of picking him up each month after one of his treatments, and carefully returning him to his home. As time passed, he became very thin and pale after these treatments, but he still maintained his dignity and even expressed interest in my well-being.

It was Sunday, December 17, 2023, and I was attending the 11:00 a.m. Mass. The presiding priest, Father Matt, was just beginning his homily, when suddenly a loud, strange noise like a powerful wind permeated the church. It was exactly 11:15 a.m. Everyone was shocked, and Father Matt said, “Did I say something wrong?” Confused and stunned, we looked at each other saying, “What was that? Was it the air conditioner?” We waited to see if it would happen again. But quiet returned and the Mass continued. Later on in the day, we found out that Father John had passed away at exactly 11:15 a.m.

If anyone has doubt about the hereafter, it is my strong belief that the loud sound we heard was the wind of the Holy Spirit carrying Father John’s spirit back to his beloved Saints Peter and Paul Church, so he could say his final loving goodbye to his faithful parishioners.

There is so much more I could share, but my feelings can all be summed up in these words: I will always love him and forever be blessed that this beautiful, holy man was a part of my life. Rest in peace, Father John. ♦

Patricia M. Lazazzaro is a past contributor to Today’s American Catholic and author of the book My Love.

Banner image: Sebbi Strauch / Unsplash
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