In Memoriam: Bishop John R. McNamara
On this day – April 18, 2001 – John R. McNamara, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston; retired Bishop of the Merrimack Region; retired Rear-Admiral US Navy, former Chief of Chaplains and winner of the Bronze Star for service with the US Marine Corps – was laid to rest.
In 1999, it was my privilege as President of the Community Teamwork Board of Directors to present Bishop McNamara with the Local Hero-President’s Award. Here are some of my remarks:
In the life of every community whether city, town or region, there are times of need or crisis, of conflicted decision-making regarding public policy, of concern for the common good – when the counsel of a wise and thoughtful person is critical. Our 1999 President’s Award honoree is such a person.
JOHN R. MC NAMARA, NOW BISHOP OF THE MERRIMACK REGION OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON, WAS BORN IN THE SMALL TOWN OF BROOKFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS (JUST WEST OF WORCESTER). EDUCATION, VOCATION, DUTY, TRAINING AND ASSIGNMENT TOOK HIM TO MANY DIFFERENT PLACES: TO HOLY CROSS COLLEGE; TO BOSTON FOR THE SEMINARY AND ORDINATION; TO PASTORAL ASSIGNMENTS AT ST. RITA’S IN LOWELL, AND PARISHES IN QUINCEY AND SOUTH BOSTON. IN 1962, FATHER MC NAMARA WAS COMMISSIONED A CHAPLAIN IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY AND IMMEDIATELY REPORTED FOR ACTIVE DUTY. TOURS OF DUTY INCLUDED ASSIGNMENTS AT NAVAL HOSPITALS AND AIR STATIONS FROM BRUNSWICK , MAINE TO VIRGINIA AS WELL AS THE PHILLIPINES. HE SERVED ON THE USS KITTY HAWK AND THE USS OKLAHOMA CITY AND HAD FOUR TOURS WITH THE MARINE CORPS. EARLIER NAVAL STAFF EXPERIENCES IN WASHINGTON, DC PREPARED HIM FOR HIS APPOINTMENT AS CHIEF OF CHAPLAINS IN 1985. EARLIER THAT YEAR POPE JOHN PAUL II APPOINTED CHAPLAIN MC NAMARA A MONSIGNOR. AS CHIEF AND DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS MINISTRIES AND STAFF TO THE CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS, HE WAS THE PRINCIPAL ADVISOR TO THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY FOR RELIGIOUS MATTERS. HIS PERSONAL MILITARY DECORATIONS INCLUDE: THE BRONZE STAR FOR SERVICE WITH THE MARINES IN VIETNAM; AND OTHER MEDALS OF COMMENDATION AND DISTINGUISHED SERVICE. HE RETIRED WITH THE RANK OF REAR ADMIRAL. IN 1992 HE WAS INSTALLED AS AUXILIARY BISHOP OF THE BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE. HE HAS SERVED AS MERRIMACK REGIONAL BISHOP FOR NEARLY EIGHT YEARS.
BISHOP MC NAMARA IS AN EXPERIENCED, ACCOMPLISHED MAN, WHO IS ALSO HUMBLE, WISE AND SPIRITUAL. WE ADMIRE AND ARE INSPIRED BY HIS COMMITMENT TO THE POORIST AMONG US; HIS CONCERN FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE; HIS CARE FOR YOUTH AND DEPRIVED CHILDREN; HIS STANCE AGAINST GANG AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; HIS COMPASSION FOR THE HUNGRY, THE HOMELESS AND THE ELDERLY.
His leadership inspired the creation of new scholarship support for area Catholic schools. Catholic Charities programs for the hungry, homeless, and children in need regardless of religion have grown under his guidance.
HE HAS BEEN WIDELY PRAISED FOR THE RECENTLY COMPLETED RESTORATION OF THE HISTORIC FORMER ST. PETER’S RECTORY ON GORHAM STREET WHICH SERVES AS HIS HOME AS WELL AS HIS HEADQUARTERS.
BISHOP MC NAMARA APPRECIATES THE STRENGTH OF DIVERSITY THAT IS LOWELL. WHEN ASKED LAST MAY FOR COMMENTS ABOUT THE CITY’S FUTURE, HE REPLIED:
“The big improvement for the city of Lowell is simple to express. It would come from a deeper commitment to and practice of our various faith convictions…All major religions teach the love of God for each person, the precious dignity of each individual, the primacy of the spiritual over the material… a recommitment to faith and its practice would challenge our current culture. We Lowellians are mostly Buddist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslims, Orthodox and Protestant. Together, by renewed commitment to our faith tradition, we can bring a notable improvement to the city and to the nation.”
BISHOP JOHN MC NAMARA IS A MODEL FOR THOSE IN POSITIONS OF LEADERSHIP IN OUR COMMUNITIES. HIS REFLECTIONS AND WISE COUNSEL ARE SOUGHT AND VALUED BY THOSE DEICATED TO IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN THE CITY AND THE REGION. AND HE IS A MODEL FOR ALL OF US WHO RESIDE IN THE REGION WHO WANT TO MAKE OUR QUALITY OF LIFE BETTER.
BISHOP MC NAMARA, WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY, ADVICE AND COUNSEL, AND FOR YOUR FINE EXAMPLE AS A MAN OF FAITH STRIVING TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
This photo is from Life Magazine – from a photo essay – 1967.
Chaplain John McNamara of Boston makes the sign of the cross as he administers the last rites to photographer Dickey Chapelle in South Vietnam Nov. 4, 1965. Chapelle was covering a U.S. Marine unit on a combat operation near Chu Lai for the National Observer when she was seriously wounded, along with four Marines, by an exploding mine. She died in a helicopter en route to a hospital. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action. Her body was repatriated with an honor guard consisting of six Marines and she was given full Marine burial.