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Archives Father J. Roger McGuinness died Jan. 12

January 19, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

WEST CHAZY – While many remember him for his work at Wadhams Hall or the many retreats he led, Father J. Roger McGuinness will remembered most for how he connected with and helped individuals.

“He was just a wonderful priest,” said Father L. William Gordon. “I can’t say anything better than that.”

Father McGuinness died on January 12 at the age of 82.

“I sat with him Tuesday afternoon and last Sunday,” said Father Gordon of his friend. “Father Clyde Lewis was with me one of those days. The family (Father McGuinness) was staying with asked me how long we’d known each other. I’m fairly good at math, but I couldn’t immediately do the math. It’s been 65 years. Father Lewis, (Father McGuinness) and I were classmates at Wadhams Hall. The people that were at Wadhams then all got to know each other pretty well. Our class, we all became good friends and have remained that way.”

Since his friend’s passing, Father Gordon said he’s received a number of messages from people whose lives had been touched by Father McGuinness over the years.

“He was very well known,” Father Gordon said. “He was involved in a lot of things. He was on the Wadhams Hall faculty for a long, long, long time. He had many spiritual directees. He was the Vocations director, director of Seminarians, and he had close friends associated with all those roles. He had been the pastor of three parishes in Plattsburgh, and he was well known there, too. I’ve heard a number of people say what a wonderful influence he was on their lives as a spiritual director. He really helped a lot of people. I don’t think we’ll ever really know how many he helped and in how many ways.”

Father Gordon said he has many fond memories of times spent with Father McGuinness over the years.

“I don’t know why I can’t get this story out of my head, but the year we were ordained – we were ordained together in 1965 – Pope Paul VI came to New York City. It was the first time a pope had visited the United States. Father McGuinness was a native of New York City. We went down there to see the Mass. I remember sleeping on the floor of his mother’s living room so we could go see the pope. He was a good friend.”

Father Gordon said his friend will be missed.

“I loved the man dearly,” he said. “We were always there for one another. We had a great friendship that went on a long, long time.”

He noted, though, that there is also joy in his passing.

“Death is the beginning of eternal life,” Father Gordon said. “(Father McGuinness) had a birthday the other day.”


Funeral Mass was Jan. 18

Reverend J. Roger McGuinness, age 82, peacefully commended his spirit to almighty God accompanied by the prayers of family and friends on Wednesday, January 12, 2022.

Reverend L. William Gordon presided over the reception of the body on Monday, January 17 at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church in West Chazy.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at noon on January 18 at St. Joseph’s Church. Most Reverend Terry R. LaValley, bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, was the principal celebrant. Homilist was Father Kris C. Lauzon.

The priests of the Diocese of Ogdensburg concelebrated.

Father McGuinness’ body will be laid to rest in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in the spring.

Father McGuinness was born July 11, 1939. He is the son of James and Mary McGuinness. A native of New York City, he attended St. Elizabeth’s Grade School in Washington Heights and Bishop Dubois High School in Manhattan.

Father McGuinness came to the North Country in 1957 to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood at Wadhams Hall Seminary in Ogdensburg. He completed his studies and the program of priestly formation at Christ the King Seminary in Olean, New York. Father McGuinness was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Thomas Donnellan at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg on May 22, 1965. Father McGuinness’ early years of priestly service were spent as a parochial vicar in parishes in Potsdam, Lake Placid, Plattsburgh and Watertown. He served the people of Raymondville and Keeseville as their pastor. In 1973, he returned to Wadhams Hall Seminary-College. Over the next 16 years, he served as academic dean, director of Spiritual Formation and instructor in psychology and religious studies. He assisted seminarians from various dioceses to discern their vocation to priestly service. In 1989, he resumed parish ministry as pastor of Our Lady of Victory Church, St. John the XXIII College Community Church and The Roman Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist in Plattsburgh. At the time of his retirement in 2016, Father McGuinness was serving the people of St. Joseph’s Church, West Chazy and Sacred Heart Church, Chazy.

Father McGuinness served the Diocese of Ogdensburg for many years as Vocation director, director of Seminarians, and chairman of the Continuing Education and Formation of Clergy Committee. Father McGuinness valued ongoing education, earning master’s degrees in Counseling-Psychology, Pastoral Ministry and Christian Spirituality. He helped prepare lay people for ministry in the Church as chaplain at Camp Guggenheim, instructor in the Formation for Ministry Program and the Permanent Diaconate Program. While living in the Plattsburgh area, Father McGuinness recorded several TV programs for the Diocese of Burlington. Father McGuinness frequently gave retreats, conferences and workshops in several dioceses in the United States and Canada, and he served on the Board of Regina Maria Retreat House in Plattsburgh.

Father McGuinness served the community as president of the Interfaith Council of Clinton County and Plattsburgh, adjunct professor in the Honors Program and the Upward Bound Program, and guest lecturer for the EOP program of SUNY Plattsburgh.

Following his retirement from parish administration, Father McGuinness continued serving the Church as a spiritual director to many people and facilitator to a Spirituality Book Club and Bible study. During the COVID pandemic, he recorded a series of podcasts on prayer and St. Joseph.

Father McGuinness is survived by his brother, James, of Marietta, Ohio; three nieces, Stephanie McGuinness Brooker and her husband, Kevin, Jennifer McGuinness, and Allie McGuinness Herren and her husband, Damon; and several great nieces and nephews, Gavin, Wade, Calum, Lana and Kyla. He was predeceased by his parents and sisters-in-law, Janet and Patricia McGuinness.

Memorial donations may be made to the St. Joseph Memorial Fund, West Chazy, or you may request Mass be offered for the repose of his immortal soul.


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