Father John A. Morgan, 96, the oldest diocesan priest, died Sept. 5, 2011, in California, where he had lived since 1995.
Born July 7, 1915, in Auburn, Father Morgan attended St. Alphonsus School in Auburn as well as Rochester’s St. Ambrose School, St. Andrew’s Seminary and St. Bernard’s Seminary. He was ordained May 18, 1940, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
He was assistant pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Rochester, from 1940-51; St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Irondequoit, from 1951-57; Church of the Assumption, Fairport, from 1958-59; and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Elmira, from 1959-64. He also served as principal of DeSales High School, Geneva, from 1957-58.
His first pastorate was at St. Bernard, Scipio Center/St. Hilary, Genoa/St. Isaac Jogue Chapel, Fleming, 1964-67. He was pastor of St. James Parish, Waverly, from 1967-78, and administrator of St. Pius X, Van Etten, from 1971-72; St. Columba, Caledonia, from 1978-81; and St. Gregory, Marion, from 1981-86.
After retiring in 1986, he assisted at parishes in the diocese and in California. During winters he spent his time assisting at Sacred Heart Parish in Pinehurst, N.C. He was an avid golfer — until his age started to exceed the length of his drive, he quipped when speaking to the Catholic Courier in 2010 upon his 70th jubilee as a priest.
In 1995 he moved to St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Camarillo, Calif., where he assisted with confessions, Masses, baptisms and marriages. Kathi Carmen, parish bookkeeper for St. Mary Magdalen Parish, said Father Morgan often was offering catechesis to people. As one example, soon after a non-Catholic employee began working at the parish, Father Morgan was giving her catechetical lessons. Soon after, she was baptized, made her first Communion and confirmation, and had her marriage blessed in the church.
"That’s why we call him a servant priest," Carmen said. "He was always there to serve the needs of the people, whatever they were."
He also was responsible for a little levity in the parish bulletin. He was always on the hunt for jokes for "Father Morgan’s Corner" of the bulletin, and parishioners often said that was the first part of the bulletin they read, Carmen said.
A funeral homily Father Morgan penned and videotaped several years ago for himself displays his characteristic wit and humility: "There are a number of reasons why I wanted to do this homily myself. To begin with, I wanted to make sure nothing bad was said about me. Also, I didn’t want someone else to be tempted to lie in order to say good things about me."
Father Morgan is survived by his sisters, Pat Shaughnessy of Tucker, Ga., and Marion "Honey" Mongan of Downey, Calf.; a brother, Paul (Maureen) Morgan of Tucker, Ga.; and many nieces and nephews.
There was a vigil with rosary Sept. 9 at St. Mary Magdalen Church, Camarillo, Calif., and a funeral Mass followed the next day with burial at Santa Clara Cemetery in Oxnard, Calif.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark will preside during Father Morgan’s memorial service in the Diocese of Rochester, which will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 19 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, Rochester.
Memorials may be made to EWTN, 5817 Old Leeds Road, Irondale, AL, 35210, or Catholic Relief Services, 228 W. Lexington St., Baltimore, MD 21201-3173.