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Sept. 29, 2021

Editor’s note: As part of this Priest Appreciation edition, the North Country Catholic is highlighting several retired priests of the diocese and how they continue to live out their vocations here in the North Country.

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

PLATTSBURGH – Father J. Roger McGuinness continues to teach during his retirement, but through a different means – podcasting. It was something that he was interested in for a while and then, thanks to the tech savvy of Father Christopher J. Looby, this ministry became a reality. Father McGuinness provides the inspiring content weekly – right from his home – and Father Looby does the recording, formatting, and editing.

Father McGuinness also continues to provide counseling, spiritual direction, and prayers for people in ministry. In his spare time, Father McGuinness catches up on reading.

“You can always learn more about spirituality and faith,” he said. “You never know it all. I am always amazed at the insights I can gain.”

Father McGuinness also prays the Rosary and celebrates Mass daily. Retirement, he said, is “lovely, I was busy for over 50 years.” He “loves the peace and quiet.”

At the same time, Father McGuinness said he enjoys the fact that there are children in his Plattsburgh neighborhood, so he still sees a cross section of people. When you retire, Father McGuinness advised, “make sure that you look around and see what’s available and what you can be comfortable with. Check it out for your own good.”

With retirement, there is a “role reversal. I gave a lot to people during my 50 years as a parish priest; it’s time to let them give me comfort and life.”

Father McGuinness said he “enjoyed being a parish priest, having too much fun, doing for others. Retirement gives more time for prayer and meditation, chatting with friends, not running here and there.”

In addition to parish work, Father McGuinness also did vocation work, continuing education, and attended a few 30-day Ignatian retreats.

During Advent, he uplifted listeners by podcasting on the themes of hope, love, joy, peace and St. Joseph. His podcasts received about 1,000 hits. He is currently part way through his next series “Holiness: Journey.”

“The series is based on three statements that Bishop Barron discussed in a talk on spirituality: finding your center, knowing you are a sinner and realizing that life is not all about you,” Father McGuinness noted.

He also referenced the statement in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium: “spirituality is part of you.”

One of the foundations to his “Seven Steps to Holiness” is the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deut 6:4-7) The last words are especially significant. Orthodox Jews recite the Shema five times a day, Father McGuinness explained, and some even wear it on their foreheads as a reminder.

Current topics and descriptions in the Holiness series include:
1) God’s Love for Us: Discusses Genesis and God yesterday and today
2) God’s Promise to Us: 10 Commandments
3) New Life in Jesus: Promise in the Garden, Annunciation, Incarnation, Paschal Mystery, and Resurrection
4) God’s Gift Through the Holy Spirit: Pentecost and Witness to the Truth of Christ
5) Living the Sacramental Life: Sacraments of Initiation, Healing, and Vocation
6) Spiritual Growth: through prayer and formation in the community of faith, the Beatitudes and Works of Mercy
7) Transformation in Christ Jesus: Come see, Come follow Me, Lord to whom shall we go
8) Conclusion: Sending forth, Making disciples, Do this in remembrance of Me

The series progresses and provides a whole view of the spiritual life based on a Lay Ministry outline he used.

“It is not intended to be purely instructional,” Father McGuinness said, the goal is “to remind listeners to be disciples of Jesus and their Baptismal role. To help them appreciate the gift of faith, they are invited to go forth to be disciples. Ephphatha: be thou opened.”

The duo of priests, Father McGuinness and Father Looby, don’t predetermine the length of the podcasts, “one may be longer than another, [they are] relatively balanced even though we pack a lot in,” he continued.

In his series, Father McGuinness includes many other uplifting stories and quotes from St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Henry Newman and his Prayer of Absolute Truth, Thomas Merton and his Prayer and Trust and Confidence, and the Anima Christi. He also relays the story of Ernie Larson, a recovering alcoholic who lost everything, and draws from his writings on several occasions. Larson said: “What we see, we learn; what we learn, we practice; what we practice, we become.” Father McGuinness adds: “What we become has consequences and responsibilities.”

Something Father McGuinness has often reminded people of over the years are Henri Nouwen’s words that “Prayer is not a substitute for ministry. Ministry is not a substitute for prayer. Prayer and ministry go together.” When priests and religious left their vocations, Father McGuinness shared, it was because they forgot to pray.

In the future, he is planning to do a series on “Spirituality: Prayer” to discuss “the role of prayer in the spiritual life and different forms of prayer.” In some of his discussions he compares the value of each Sacrament to Erik Erikson’s stages of development.

Father McGuinness reflects on what we do and how we become. Soon he will discuss St. Therese and the Little Way. At present, he is conducting research for his next podcasts. Listeners can tune in and hear previous podcasts at: www.route74catholics.org Click on the “More” option at the top of the screen and select “The Father Roger Podcast.”

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