'Filled with God’s compassion and love for us': Community mourns loss of Phoenix priest

By Claire Rafford
Arizona Republic
July 13, 2019

Msgr. Michael O'Grady died in Ireland at the age of 85, according to the Dioceses of Phoenix.

O'Grady was remembered by his community members as being selfless and always filled with love for those around him.

Monsignor Michael O'Grady, a longtime priest in the Diocese of Phoenix, died in his sleep Saturday at his home in Ireland, according to Rob DeFrancesco, a Diocese of Phoenix spokesman. O'Grady was 85.

The diocese said O’Grady was “a humble and generous priest who always had a heart for those in need.”

“His great humor, demeanor, and holiness will be greatly missed,” DeFrancesco said in a statement.

O’Grady was born on May 21, 1934, in Ireland. He was ordained a priest on June 6, 1958, in the Diocese of Tucson and joined the Diocese of Phoenix in 1969 when that diocese was established, according to a statement from the diocese.

O’Grady was designated a monsignor by Pope John Paul II, the diocese said.

Over the years, O’Grady served at many different parishes throughout the Valley. He was a parochial vicar at St. Teresa Catholic Church in Phoenix, Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mesa and St. Daniel the Prophet Roman Catholic Church in Scottsdale, according to the statement.

O’Grady also served as pastor of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Mesa, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tempe and St. Daniel the Prophet Roman Catholic Church, in addition to serving as rector of Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral until he retired in 2005, the diocese said in the statement.

O’Grady, however, was accused of covering up for a fellow priest during the diocese’s sex-abuse scandal. He was accused by at least one victim and his family of failing to act when told that the Rev. Patrick Colleary, an associate at Holy Spirit, was suspected of molesting the child in the late 1970s. The diocese reached a settlement with the victim in 2005.

During his retirement, O’Grady still offered the sacraments and retreats, and he served as chaplain for the Cursillo movement, a three-day retreat.

Sister Dympna Doran, of the Loretto order, said O’Grady was an important part of the sisters’ life at the convent.

“He was kind of like part of our family here. We were delighted to see him anytime he came in,” she said.

Doran said one of her favorite memories with O’Grady was his participation in the parish’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day party.

“He was always there with his songs and his jokes and taking part and even dancing one of the reels, the four-hand reels with us.”

Doran said that O’Grady was “excellent to the poor,” and that he was very generous.

“He wouldn’t give them just one dollar, he might be giving them 20 dollars … he had a very kind heart,” she said.

Sister Christa Parra, who attended Sts. Simon and Jude parish as a young child, said she was always touched by how much O’Grady cared about people, especially children.

“I just remember going to church, how much you could feel God’s love and joy through the Mass when he celebrated … (he was) always filled with God's compassion and love for us,” Parra said.

“He was so human, so humble and truly one of a kind. We all loved him so much and learned so much from him over the years,” said Mary Jo Wahlers, director of advancement at the Sts. Simon and Jude School in Phoenix.

Sister Anne Fitzsimons, a cousin of O'Grady, said he was selfless and cared deeply about other people. 

“He just loved to keep looking around and seeing the needs of other people and what he could do for them,” Fitzsimons said. 

“We’re going to miss him terribly,” Doran said.

No funeral or memorial services have been scheduled yet, according to the diocese's statement.



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