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All Souls Day—‘We Remember Our People’


A Franciscan priest, probably in his fifties, visited our parish a couple of years ago.
 
Because of his order, I mentioned to him that I had been baptized by a Franciscan, Fr. Kilian McFall, in 1942.
 
“That must have been at St. James in Totowa,’’ he said.
 
“That was almost seventy years ago,” I said. “How did you
know?”
 
“Oh,” he said with a wry look, “we remember our people.”
 
I was stunned. I never knew Fr. McFall, because he left St. James when I was very young, but I knew about him because my mother frequently mentioned that he had baptized my brother and me.
 
His name came up in a more public way in the 1950s when a street alongside the St. James church property was changed from McKinney Place to Kilian Place. Still, ask most people in Totowa today who “Kilian” was, and they won’t know. Street names are like that.
 
In an idle moment sometime after my conversation with that friar, I did a Google search on Fr. McFall’s name, feeling certain that nothing relevant would turn up. But the search led to a page, devoted to Fr. McFall, on the web site of the Holy Name Province of Franciscan Friars—a province that embraces the East Coast from Massachusetts to Florida and some overseas missions.
 
There was a photograph of Fr. McFall—the only one I had ever seen—and a biographical sketch that recounted his assignments in New York City, Totowa, North Carolina, and Florida.
 
Concerning his ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in Manhattan, where Fr. McFall served twice for a total of more than ten years, the bio had this to say:
 
“Fr. Kilian’s kindness and good judgment in practical matters made him a popular confessor at St. Francis. He had a special compassion for the sick and spent a great deal of time visiting them.’’
 
Indeed, Fr. McFall spent the last two years of his life as a hospital chaplain in West Palm Beach, where he died in 1955 at the age of 52.
 
For seven decades, Fr. McFall was a benign if shadowy figure—someone who had touched my life in an important way and then retreated into the past. With my parents, who brought me to him for baptism, he was one of the first to nudge me toward a path of Christian faith.
 
Our lives are filled with such people some still living and some departed. We can still thank the ones who live, and we can pray for those who are gone—a practice to which the Church devotes the whole month of November.
 
Grandparents and parents; siblings, aunts, and uncles; priests, sisters, and brothers; teachers and fellow students; intimate friends and total strangers who in some way have helped us grow in faith—may we all say with the friars, “We remember our people.”
 
Charles Paolino is a member of the RENEW staff and a permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Metuchen.

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2 Responses to “All Souls Day—‘We Remember Our People’”


 
  1. PAULA JOHNSON says:

    Please add the following to your prayers:
    Helen Lippold
    Bob Lippold
    Harold Johnson

    May God richly bless you!

  2. RENEW says:

    Thank you, Paula. We will remember them all in our prayers.

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