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He was, at heart, a servant

Msgr. Charles McGlinn died on Nov. 20 from diabetes complications. He was the longtime pastor of Curé of Ars Parish, Leawood. He also served as vicar general for the archdiocese. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — If you wanted to call him “monsignor,” you could. Msgr. Charles McGlinn didn’t mind.

Most of the time, however, everybody called him “Father Charles” or “Father Charlie.”

The humility suited him. After all, he was, at heart, a servant.

“His greatest desire was to serve people and bring them closer to Christ,” said longtime friend Msgr. Thomas Tank, pastor of Ascension Parish in Overland Park. “His greatest joy was celebrating the Eucharist.”

Indeed. Despite his infirmities, Msgr. McGlinn celebrated Mass at Ascension Parish until two months before he died.

Msgr. Charles “Charlie” Douglas McGlinn, 78, died in his sleep due to complications from diabetes on Nov. 20 at the Ascension Parish rectory.

Msgr. Charles McGlinn passed away on Nov. 20 after serving as a priest for 53 years.

He was born on Jan. 1, 1942, in Leavenworth, the second of six sons of John and Margaret Mary (Gillespie) McGlinn. The family belonged to the Old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish. Charlie went to Immaculate Conception Grade School and Immaculata High School, graduating in 1959.

There were early hints of a priestly vocation. As a boy, he witnessed a boy being hit by a car. As he lay dying, Charlie prayed over the boy and gave him an emergency baptism.

Perhaps his greatest vocational influence was his pastor, Msgr. Alexander Harvey. Charlie served Mass for him and the cleric was a frequent family dinner guest.

“They formed a great trust and friendship,” said brother Patrick McGlinn.

In 1959, Charlie entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and master of arts degree in religious education, graduating in 1967. While there, he first met archdiocesan seminarian Thomas Tank.

Father McGlinn was ordained a priest by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler on May 27, 1967, at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas. His first assignment was at the cathedral with his seminary classmate, Father Tank, with whom he was ordained.

“He was a wonderful person who loved life and loved people,” said Msgr. Tank. “He had a real passion for the poor and, particularly, for remedying injustices. There are a tremendous number of people he helped over the years.”

His love for Scripture was displayed in the classes he taught through most of his 53-year priesthood, perhaps the root of what was called his “tremendous vision.” Above all, he was the expression of Christ’s compassion in his ministry, said Msgr. Tank.

Father John Riley, archdiocesan chancellor, knew Msgr. McGlinn while growing up in Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park.

“We just loved Monsignor (McGlinn),” said Father Riley. “He was always so upbeat. He was a great preacher and such a joyful witness to the faith, an inspiration to young and old alike.

“He was well respected by his brother priests. They would seek out his wise counsel on any number of issues . . . and he was a good confessor. Priests would seek his spiritual guidance as well. He was a priests’ priest.”

Msgr. McGlinn was a great storyteller, joke teller and practical joker.  He was a hit at priest gatherings.

“He’d tell wonderful jokes that would just have us busting a gut, because he was so good at it,” said Father Riley. “We’d start this chant ‘Char-lie, Char-lie, Char-lie’ until he got up and told some jokes.”

“The problem with his jokes is that he’d start laughing before he finished them,” said Msgr. Tank.

A little over two years after he arrived, Archbishop Emeritus James P. Keleher chose Msgr. McGlinn and Msgr. Tank to be his two vicars general. Their contrasting styles — and debates — helped him tremendously.

Msgr. McGlinn had another talent: acclimating foreign priests to Kansas. The archbishop sent him so many priests that Curé of Ars became known as IHOP: the International House of Priests.

“Msgr. Charles was excellent,” said Archbishop Keleher. “He was able to help and support people. People loved him. [I hoped] any priest with him would see and catch that beautiful talent themselves.”

For more than 25 years, Msgr. McGlinn would end his homilies by saying, “I have a little prayer for you.” He published his “Poem Prayers” in little booklets and later, in 2015, a book. He donated the proceeds to the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico.

Msgr. McGlinn was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his five brothers: John, Jim, Mike, Patrick and Don.

A memorial vigil Mass was held on Nov. 24. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass on Nov. 25 at the Church of the Ascension. Burial was at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Leavenworth. Donations in Msgr. McGlinn’s name may be made to Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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