Biographies

Father Joseph A. P. McGinn, MM

Born: November 14, 1897
Ordained: June 17, 1923
Died: July 9, 1977

Father Joseph Augustus Peter McGinn died at about 7 p. m. Saturday, July 9, in a Santa Barbara, California Hospital.

Fr. McGinn was born November 14, 1897 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The family moved when he was very young to Philadelphia. There he attended St. Edward’s parochial school and the Philadelphia Catholic High School. Joining Maryknoll in September 1914, he was among the first graduates of the college established at the Venard. After studies at Maryknoll, New York, he was among the first group of Maryknollers sent to Catholic University in Washington, and received there his S.T.B. in 1922 and the Licentiate in Canon Law in 1923. Ordained June 17, 1923, he taught languages at the Venard in 1923-24.

At the end of December, 1924, he happily accepted an assignment to Kongmoon, China. He spent the next 28 years largely in China, remaining there all during the Second World War, suffering harassment from the Chinese Communists in 1951, and a trial and imprisonment lasting almost all of 1952. In December, 1952, thinking that execution was imminent, his Novena prayers were answered in the last hour of the ninth day, and he was put across the border in to Hong Kong. After working some months in Hong Kong with refugees, he was assigned to Hawaii in April 1955, and worked there until September 1973, his final parish being Pahoa Sacred Heart Church on the island of Hawaii.

In retirement and assigned to the Special Society Unit, he chose to live with his older brother Tom in Santa Barbara, “two old gents baching it,” a he wrote, with his job “cook and occasional yard man, with some attempt at writing.” A delightful human being, always with great enthusiasm for mission, he wrote frequently and very well down through the years, with many articles to his credit in the Field Afar from the years he served in China. We have in the Archive a well-written account of his imprisonment in 1952: this was prepared in 1974, and Bishop James E. Walsh wrote then of it: “This is a first-class piece of work, classic description of communist imprisonment… Father McGinn always had literary talent. This sketch of his deserves full-marks.”

In 1974, he wrote a piece on “What to look for in candidates?” ,which it is good to be able to include in this memorial letter: “His faith more like that of a ‘Breton peasant’… His sense of call: genuine, not solely adventurous, not impelled by influences outside… ‘Bite the bullet,’ Grasp the nettle! Trust in God always, everywhere. Keep on trying! Hang in there! no matter what. I am doing God’s will. He put me here – I’m willing to stay!” We had the happy privilege of welcoming Father McGinn for what proved to be his final visit to Maryknoll, New York, May 21-22, 1977 at the time of ordinations and the 50th anniversary of Bishop James E. Walsh’s Consecration on Sancian Island.

Mass was celebrated Tuesday morning at the parish he regarded in recent years as his home parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1300 E.  Valley Rd. , Santa Barbara. The body was brought to Los Altos Tuesday afternoon, with a Vigil Service there Tuesday evening, and Mass of the Resurrection and burial at Los Altos Wednesday morning, July 13. A Mass for Father McGinn was concelebrated at the Seminary Chapel at Maryknoll, New York, at 12 noon on Wednesday, July 13. Father Winslow, his classmate, was the homilist.