Father McGeary had been a navy chaplain and the chaplain at a women’s jail and detention center before he was assigned to the parish. He looked just like a stereotypical Southie mick because that’s who he was. He was the middle child in a rambunctious, second generation, South Boston, Irish-American family.
When the paperboy came around on Saturday mornings, he opened a box of sugar coated chocolate doughnuts and offered the kid a seat so he could eat some doughnuts and drink hot chocolate. They didn’t talk religion. They debated sports; teams, players, bad plays, and bad refs.
Father McG did what good priests are meant to do. He paid attention. He befriended a hippy girl. When he saw her walking, the 5 miles to town from the dilapidated house she lived in, he stopped and offered her a ride. He went out of his way to take her where she was going. She asked him hard questions, “Do you believe people will go to hell for living together without being married? Is abortion a sin?” He responded with harder answers, “You’re the only one who can make decisions for the life you live. Those judgments are not mine to make.” He liked that girl. Life would give her all the answers she needed.
Father hadn’t always been a priest. He’d lived a different life, before he was ordained in middle-age. He heard what was said. He gave what he had without reservation or sanctimony. He didn’t worry about sin. Sin took care of itself.