SCROLL THE ARROWS to see three more photos.
Father Michael Quinn’s parents received Holy Communion almost every day, usually before their children were awake.
Two of their English ancestors died in prison for harboring Catholic priests in 1581, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
The family’s roots run back through St. Margaret of Scotland, a pious and charitable member of 11th-century royalty.
They all remained faithful in their love for the Most Blessed Sacrament, and so has Fr. Quinn.
“The highlight of my day as a priest has always been the Eucharist,” he stated. “I’ve been imbued with a love for the Mass and what Jesus did for us by His Incarnation and His dying and rising.”
Fr. Quinn, a Monroe City native and pastor of Holy Family parish in Hannibal, is noting his 50th priestly anniversary this year.
He plans to retire on July 1 from being a pastor but not from the Priesthood.
“Being a priest is basically about being a man who gives witness to Christ by his life, by his prayer, by his leading the people in the holy order, in the Mass, and by praying with them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” he said.
“The priest is in the trenches with the People of God and encouraging and companioning with them on their journey of faith,” he said.
Family and friends
Fr. Quinn was the third of six children born to Ambrose and Pauline Quinn, who are now both deceased.
One of his three brothers was the late Father Patrick Quinn, a priest of the Jefferson City diocese, who died in 1999.
Their father had a trucking business. Fr. Quinn was driving into the fields to pick up hay before he was tall enough to see over the steering wheel.
“I had to sit on a bunch of pillows,” he recalled.
The children went to Holy Rosary School in Monroe City.
Mrs. Quinn’s devotion to and friendship with the Blessed Mother rubbed off on her son.
“Mom was really my heroine, and because of her, I got close to the mother of Jesus,” said Fr. Quinn.
In grade school, he joined the Junior Legion of Mary, attending weekly Rosary meetings and then visiting people who were elderly and homebound.
He had a lot of friends and was always bringing someone home for dinner.
An older parishioner once stopped him on the way to school and said he’d make a good priest.
His brother Patrick was already a seminarian at Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis when young Michael decided to attend high school at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal.
From there, he continued on to Cardinal Glennon College, Kenrick Seminary and then the Saint Louis University School of Divinity.
Patrick and Michael, five years apart in age and formation, would drive to St. Louis together.
“He was my big brother and someone I admired,” said Fr. Quinn. “I think he was part of my initial draw to the Priesthood.”
“I need You”
The Second Vatican Council was happening while Fr. Quinn was in college. He enjoyed taking part in discussions with laypeople about the documents the Council fathers were putting forth.
“It was a wonderful time!” he said. “The Church was becoming more and more a part of the people — not just a ‘priest church,’ but the People of God: the priest presiding over the ministries of the people, of all the baptized faithful.”
Fr. Quinn spent a summer living in the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex in a poor and dangerous part of St. Louis.
He and five fellow seminarians and a half-dozen young women from what is now Webster University worked at a neighborhood center sponsored by two Catholic parishes.
They assisted 200 to 300 children in sports, academics and other activities.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Fr. Quinn recalled. “The people protected us. They felt like we were theirs.”
He spent another summer in Hobart, Oklahoma, with a group of seminarians from Cardinal Glennon and postulants from the Sisters of St. Francis of Maryville.
They worked with poor Hispanic immigrants and African-Americans to rehab a local community center. They also led Bible studies and children’s activities.
“It was a world away from the hayfields I was used to working in over the summers!” he said.
After two years at Kenrick, he continued his theology studies at the School of Divinity at Saint Louis University.
“That was such a great experience,” he recalled. “It was the first time I had been in a classroom of men and women, all of us studying Scripture and theology.”
He served as a transitional deacon at St. Bonaventure parish in Marceline.
There, he gave religious instruction to young women who were preparing for marriage and to become Catholic.
He also took up a census by visiting every home within the parish boundaries.
“I did a lot of it on foot,” he recalled. “It was a very good experience.”
On June 6, 1970, in Holy Rosary Church in Monroe City, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe of Jefferson City, now deceased, ordained him to the Holy Priesthood.
The invitation to the Ordination Mass read: “I am being given to you by God so that together we might serve the Lord.”
Moments before Fr. Quinn started walking down the aisle, his mind filled with turmoil and concern.
“I can’t do this without You!” he silently prayed. “I need You!”
Fr. Quinn has been assigned to only four parishes in 50 years.
The first was Immaculate Conception in Jefferson City, where he excelled at youth ministry and became leader of the parish youth group.
Incarnate Word Sisters Pat Kelly and Bertha Franco invited him to attend a Life in the Spirit Seminar of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
“I learned my prayer language and was baptized in the Spirit,” he said.
Fr. Quinn and several other members of his priest support group remain involved in Charismatic spirituality.
His heart sank when Bishop McAuliffe appointed him to the faculty of Helias Catholic High School.
“All through the seminary, I remember thinking, ‘Just don’t ask me to teach! I want to be a priest and work in a parish but I don’t want to work in a high school,’” he recalled.
He obediently moved to Wardsville to assist the pastor of St. Stanislaus parish and took up his teaching and counseling duties at Helias.
“It was fantastic!” he said.
The bishop gave him permission to work over the summers on a master’s degree in theology from Incarnate Word University in San Antonio, Texas.
“I spent the next four summers there, reading and writing papers and doing classwork,” he said.
He and a group of laypeople brought Engaged Encounter to this diocese to help Catholic couples prepare for marriage.
He attended his first Cursillo weekend in 1977 and became active in facilitating Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) weekends for young people.
“The renewal movements in the Church have been very important to me,” he said. “It’s so amazing to see people in our Church growing in faith, getting involved and seeking healing and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”
Living the dream
Fr. Quinn had always dreamed of ministering to college students at the Catholic Newman Center in Columbia.
“And guess what! That’s exactly what I got to do!” he said.
He went there as a chaplain and campus minister in 1977. Three years later, he was appointed pastor of what became St. Thomas More Newman Center parish.
“That was off-the-wall wonderful!” he said. “I just can’t believe how much of a life-giving experience working with college students was!
“The Mass was so creative, so prayerful, so alive!” he said.
He served as part of a ministry team consisting of priests, a sister, lay adults and college students.
He helped establish the St. Francis Catholic Worker community, including the St. Francis House for men and the Lois Bryant House for women and children without a home.
For 14 years, he and a Protestant minister served as chaplains of the Mizzou Tigers football team.
“To go to the games and minister to the players — that was an absolute dream!” he said.
In 1998, Fr. Quinn went from living his dream to thinking he was going to die — when Bishop John R. Gaydos, now retired, appointed him pastor of Holy Family parish in Hannibal.
“I remember just thinking, ‘God, where are You in all of this?’” he said.
“And of course, God always has a much better plan that I do — thank You Jesus!” Fr. Quinn exclaimed. “It wound up being absolutely fantastic here.”
The move brought him much closer to his family.
And while he had gotten to be friends with hundreds of students and faculty members during his 22 years at Newman, “they’d usually eventually move on,” he said.
“Here, a lot of the people I got to know way back in 1998 are still part of the parish,” he stated. “It’s like a family — a holy family! The people are so warm and friendly and active.”
His brother and priestly role model died in 1999, following a car accident.
“I wanted to grow old with him,” the younger priest stated. “I had a hard time getting used the fact that that just wasn’t going to happen.”
Fr. Quinn got to spend most of his Sunday evenings and Mondays with his mother until she died last year, six weeks shy of her 100th birthday.
Wherever God is
Fr. Quinn describes himself as “a man in love with the Lord, being fed by the Word of God and the Body of Christ, and being called to serve.”
“Being Catholic is certainly about belief and Word and Sacrament and the Creed that I love very much,” he said. “But it’s also about wanting to embrace all. It’s belief in the fullness of what our God intended for all of us to receive through His Son.”
Fr. Quinn has always been passionate about the Social Gospel, namely, “bringing glad tidings to the poor.”
“It’s simply a matter of following Christ,” he said.
He believes an important aspect of the Priesthood is “empowering the people to live out their call to be holy, to sacrifice for others and care for others.”
Above all else, a priest is entrusted with offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, “to be in persona Christi and to speak the words of Christ,” said Fr. Quinn.
“It’s not me. It’s Him — ‘This is My Body. This is My Blood.’”
“Change is good”
On July 1, Fr. Quinn will move to a home he’s building in Monroe City.
He plans to offer daily Mass in his chapel there and become a member of Holy Rosary parish.
He hopes in retirement to spend more time praying, reading, leading pilgrimages and visiting his extended family.
He plans to continue meeting regularly with his priest support group who have been an important part of his life during the past 43 years of the group’s existence.
He prays the “Memorare” and the Jesus Prayer — “Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner” — numerous times a day.
Through the decades, he’s been encouraging people to make the Eucharist the center of their lives and put their gratitude to God into practice.
“I want them keep living the faith and keep caring about people who are struggling,” he said. “And never to give up on the Lord God. Stay close to the sacraments and keep that love affair with Christ going!”
He believes God is always calling His Church to become holier and more focused on the people most in need of being led to Him.
“Change is good in a lot of ways,” said Fr. Quinn. “And the Church is always in need of coming closer to Christ, in its priests, in its leadership, in its people.”
“Trust in the Lord”
Fr. Quinn is thankful to God for calling him to Priesthood and for filling these five decades with wonderful people and fruitful ministry.
“It hasn’t all been easy, but it has made me so happy,” he said. “God has always been here to guide me. I have always felt His love and support and the love of His people.”
He asks for prayers for openness to whatever God has in mind for him in retirement — “that I will continue to keep strong in my prayer walk, that I keep trusting the Lord and letting Him guide me in the final years of my life, wherever He leads me.”
To anyone considering a call to the Priesthood, he suggests persistent prayer and active listening.
“Trust in the Lord and don’t be afraid,” he said. “Let Him take you by the hand and lead you.”