Father J. Edmund McClear, MM

Born: November 21, 1912
Ordained: June 21, 1942
Died: February 3, 2001

Father J. Edmund McClear died on Saturday afternoon, February 3, 2001 at St. Teresa’s Residence. He was 88 years of age and a Maryknoll priest for 59 years.

John Edmund McClear was born November 21, 1912 in Detroit, Michigan, son of Ernest H. and Sadie Agnes Coinmiskey McClear. There were two brothers now deceased: Mr. Hubert McClear and Father Vernon McClear, S.J. Edmund went to St. Mary’s Grade School and to St. Mary’s High School in Royal Oak, Michigan. He graduated from high school in 1931 and worked for two years after graduation. He studied for four years at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He joined Maryknoll at the Novitiate in Bedford. Then, after Theology, he was ordained at Maryknoll, June 21, 1942.

In 1942, he was assigned to Promotion at Bedford, Massachusetts for a year and then for another year in New York City. In September 1944, he was assigned to Guatemala. He studied Spanish in Guatemala City and in 1946 was made pastor of San Pedro Soloma, Huehuetenango. There were about 50,000 people scattered in this area. Father McClear was involved in parochial ministry and paid a lot of attention to catechesis. He also ran a dispensary. Dentist friends from Detroit showed him how to pull teeth and he extracted, maybe, 15,000 teeth in his years as pastor in Soloma. His kindness to the Mayan Indians of the parish won their friendship and confidence.

In 1952, he began to serve as First Counselor to the Society Superior for the Guatemala area. In May 1958, the Mayan Indian town of San Mateo Ixtatan was added to his charge. In 1962, he was transferred to the Parish of San Carlos Sija, and in 1965, he moved into the neighboring country of El Salvador and served as Assistant Pastor in the Parish of Santa Ana and later in Natividad Parish.

During his ministry in Central America, Father McClear served in a number of large rural parishes where the people were not well educated. Wherever he went, it was his aim to set up effective catechetical programs. He invented a small flash light battery-operated projector for slide filmstrips. These projected clear catechetical illustrations on the side of a wall, or on a sheet set up as a screen. Most of Father McClear’s territory was without electricity. His catechetical filmstrips served as a sort of educational television system in remote rural areas. Working with a company “Producciones Carlos Compesinas” in Guatemala, he was able to develop a small filmstrip projector that worked on batteries or on direct electric current. More than 300 of these projectors went into use and there were orders for many more.

Father McClear was known a man of deep faith. His sense of humor was enjoyed and appreciated by those who knew him. There is a story about Father McClear that goes like this – Some years ago in Guatemala the Regional Superior sent out a questionnaire asking the men where they would prefer to be buried at the time of death. Father McClear quickly responded by saying – “Where I am to be buried at the time of my death makes no difference to me as I will only be using it for three days.”

Upon hearing the news of Father McClear’s death close friends wrote and shared fond memories of Father McClear. They went on to say “Father Mac told my Dad that he believed that the second after one dies, one awakes in God’s presence. I had never thought of heaven in such wonderful terms before and the idea has lingered in my heart all these years and has become a part of my own belief.”

The Regional Superior of Central America was recently at Maryknoll and spoke of Father McClear. He said “Father McClear continues to be one of the missioners the Guatemalan people ask about and talk about.”

In 1977, Father McClear requested enrollment in the Special Society Unit with residence in the Central American Region. In 1984, he came back to the United States and stayed with his elderly brother, Hubert, in Detroit. In 1993, Father McClear took up residence in Los Altos, California. In 1995, he suffered an injury and in November of 1995 he took up residence at St. Teresa’s, Maryknoll, NY.

Wake Services were held on February 6, 2001 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Teresa’s Residence where Father John McCabe officiated and at 7:30 p.m. at Queen of Apostles Chapel at the Maryknoll Society Center where Father Richard Callahan officiated and Brother John Blazo read the biography. Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated at Queen of Apostles Chapel on February 7, 2001 at 11:00 a.m. Father Gordon Fritz was principal celebrant and Father Joseph Towle homilist. Burial was held at the Society Cemetery at Maryknoll, NY and Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick conducted the graveside service.