I suppose I always knew the day would come when Msgr. Thomas McGread would “meet his mentor, inspiration and guide,” our Lord and Savior, face to face. Shouldn’t we all be anticipating and preparing for the moment, in spite of the fact we know not the day, nor the hour, He will call each of us “home.”
For Msgr. McGread, that day was on April 1, 2013. I am most grateful to one of my friends from Catholic Stewardship Consultants who called me immediately with the news of his death. I suspect the timeliness of the call was because CSC knew Msgr. McGread and I have had a number of conversations in the past seven years, and Msgr. McGread always seemed to be interested in our parish and it’s progress in embracing the stewardship way of life. It was to be my hope, especially this year, to have one more conversation with him, but that was not meant to be.
I am left with discussing his life and mission of being a mentor, a source of inspiration, and a guide in understanding the stewardship way of life with his friends and colleagues, who knew him very well. They were and still are my link to that faithful priest from Wichita, known as the “Father of Catholic Stewardship” and my “mentor, inspiration and guide.”
There is a natural sadness in acknowledging the death of such a priest so dedicated to being a “faithful steward.” However, I cannot imagine where I would be now, having not met the man, heard the message from himself and others inspired by him. His humility prevented him from drawing attention to himself, but his commitment to being an advocate and messenger of the spirituality of stewardship will always be a gift I humbly accept and cherish and hope to model.
I cannot imagine where our parish would be now had we not come to know of Msgr. McGread’s life work in the area of stewardship. I can’t imagine where hundreds of other parishes along with their pastors would be now had they not heard him or the inspiring words he often shared at the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kan., or in his many travels and speaking engagements throughout his priesthood. I wonder where the Conference of Catholic Bishops would have gotten their inspiration and insights when drafting the conference’s pastoral letter titled, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, first published in 1992 and expanded in 2002. It remains the definitive resource to understanding stewardship as a way of life.
I am convinced and know Msgr. McGread’s legacy will continue as long as those of us who remain committed to the stewardship way of life acknowledge, recall, and teach what we have gained from his mentorship, inspiration and guidance. We thank God for his presence and our fortunate interaction with his message and his practical wisdom, which he recognized as God’s gift to him, but never meant to be private. He shared it with enthusiasm and dedication, despite challenges, opposition, criticism and even at times, rejection. While serving as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, the parish flourished, becoming the “premier model” of living the stewardship way of life, even to this day. His explanation that the “Textbook for stewardship is the Word of God, the Bible; the classroom of stewardship is the Holy Mass,” made perfect sense when I first heard it from Msgr. McGread himself. And, now, eight years later, many along with myself are more convinced of the truth of those words.
While sadness hits us when we think of a loss, gratitude is a much stronger force that provides consolation and assurance when we need it most. I am not sure this is the time for that. What I am certain of is that I am profoundly grateful and blessed that what God has given me and so many others, through an Irish pastor from Wichita, we continue to be a “mentor, a source of inspiration and guide,” for the rest of my life. This is another one of God’s gifts for which I am most grateful.