Holy Name Church photo
Fr. John McGuire in his Coquille office.
Holy Name Church photo
Fr. John McGuire in his Coquille office.

COQUILLE — Father John McGuire has served as spiritual leader of Holy Name Church in Coquille for an eye-popping 23 years, almost twice the usual tenure. He'd do it all over again, he says.

In fact, he'll continue living in the coastal community when he retires this month. While he'll stay out of the new pastor's way, he stands ready to help — in Coquille and elsewhere in Oregon.

"I love my priesthood," Father McGuire says. "There has not been one moment when I have not been happy in it. I wouldn't trade this for the world — being with the people, saying Mass. It's all very important to me."

This from a man who was raised to hate Catholics. As a boy in a Pentecostal family in St. Louis, Mo., he was forbidden to play with the Catholic children next door. Then one day, his brother came home from the Navy, having embraced Catholicism.

While he was in high school, the younger brother started investigating the ancient church and became convinced that it was the one founded by Christ and that it had an indescribably precious thing — the Eucharist. He entered the seminary in 1969 at age 30 and was disowned for a time by his family. He was ordained a priest in St. Louis in 1976 for the Catholic Maronite Rite, then later became a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland.

One of his liturgical signatures was getting children involved at Mass, not just as altar servers, but as readers and in other roles.

"You can't get a better vocation in life," he says. "It does require sacrifice, but it's been very rewarding."

In 1999, he was thrilled to return to his home town when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis. Two words kept flashing through his head at the time: awesome, humbling. He and 1,200 other priests concelebrated Mass with the pope.

“It was a very moving time," he said then. "You see how universal the church is.”

Father McGuire has often shown himself to be a man of good sense. During the controversial outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003, he urged parishioners to let go of their passions regarding the the political side of the war and instead pray that casualties would be minimal.

In addition to spiritual guidance, Father McGuire has offered other talents to the people of Coquille. He's known as an accomplished chef who has assembled many a meal for parish events — or just to be hospitable. The priest's magnum opus comes in stained glass. In the course of 12 years, he created 26 windows for the church, portraying the life of Christ and saints. 

“It takes your breath away when you walk into the church,” parishioner Patsy Collins told the Catholic Sentinel earlier this year.

At 74, Father McGuire is still in enviable health. Shortly after retiring, he will travel to Ireland to find relatives.