When he retired after almost 21 years of leading the San Pedro Catholic Church on Plantation Key, the Rev. John McGrath was not ready to leave.
“Father McGrath loved to fish and he loved the Keys,” said Mary Ann Don, a 30-year parish member and current director of the Children’s Choir established by McGrath. “He always missed the Keys very much.”
McGrath, a Brooklyn native who served at San Pedro from 1981 to mid-2002, died last Monday in Orlando of persistent health problems. He was 83.
“He was a wonderful and loyal priest who served the parish very well,” San Pedro lector Richard Meister said.
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“Father McGrath was a real Irishman — always smiling, always happy and oh so smart,” said Don, who helped look after the priest’s two dachshunds, Charlie and Molly, and his birds.
“He was a caring person and knew everybody,” she said. “He loved to talk to the children. They’re adults now and but they’ve never forgotten the things Father told them.”
“Father McGrath did so much for the church,” said Father Franky Jean, who became San Pedro pastor in July. “I hear stories about him every day.”
Parishoners speak of McGrath’s warmth and his ability to offer wise counsel in any situation.
McGrath was a “go-getter,” Don said. “He was a great cook. When we’d have a covered-dish dinner, people always were asking which ones were his.”
“He was a hard worker, doing whatever needed to be done,” she said. “He could raise money and he wasn’t afraid to grab a paint brush.”
McGrath oversaw many improvements at San Pedro, and helped nurture the Keys church from a mission to recognition as a parish.
A funeral Mass for McGrath was last week at Blessed Sacrament Church of Clermont, with Orlando Bishop John Noonan presiding. In retirement, McGrath assisted at Blessed Sacrament.
A Mass for Father McGrath was said Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral, followed by burial at the adjacent priests’ cemetery.
In the Keys, a memorial will take held during dedication of “The Good Shepherd,” a marble statute depicting children gathered around Jesus. The statue was ordered a while ago to honor Father McGrath’s long service. A date will be announced.
Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206