Chicagoland

St. Rita’s Father McCarthy takes Vatican post

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
January 10, 2018

Augustinian Father Tom McCarthy preaches during the novena to St. Rita in 2013. The novena was held at St. Rita High School’s chapel. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Augustinian Father Tom McCarthy takes up his new position as the English-language official of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization in Rome, he’s hoping things aren’t too different.

“I was told this pontifical council is the accessible and friendly face of the Vatican and the Holy Father,” McCarthy said. “It deals hands on with people and pilgrims. When I thought about it, I realized I don’t have a reason not to.”

McCarthy, a Chicago native, grew up in St. Adrian Parish and attended St. Rita High School, where he later served as chaplain, president and chairman of the board. He is director of the Shrine of St. Rita at the school, and has given more than 200 parish missions in 14 states over the last 19 years. He served as vocations director of the Augustinians’ Midwest province for nine years, and of the Villanova Province for the last five years of that.  

During that time, the Augustinians experienced a surge in vocations, investing 11 men in 2016.

He left that post in July, but remained at Villanova University located outside of Philadelphia, living in a freshman dorm and working on first- and second-year initiatives.

McCarthy said he was notified by his provincial about the appointment on Christmas Eve, but he had learned that the pontifical council was looking for an American priest who was part of a religious community a couple of weeks before that.

The Augustinian vicar general in Rome thought of him and asked him to consider it, he said.

At first, it was hard to think of moving to the Augustinian generalate in Rome and working there for the next five years, but a friend helped him put in perspective.

“He said, ‘We always tell people to trust their heart and follow God,’” McCarthy said. “‘Well, it’s time to look in the mirror and do it.’”

McCarthy said he has loved every ministry assignment he has had, and he expects this will be the same.

He hopes to find ways to expand his ministry of evangelization by being present.

“It was at Catholic Theological Union where I first heard the term ‘ministry of presence,’” McCarthy said. “I’ve learned how important that is. You’ve got to show up, you’ve got to be there. I used to see maybe 3,000 kids a year on confirmation retreats. They have to know you care before they care what you know.”

Bernadette DiLucido, who was McCarthy’s assistant for two years in the vocations office at Villanova, said she saw that approach all the time. There was one man discerning a vocation who attended school during the day and then worked a 3-11 p.m. shift, so the only time he could really talk was late at night.

“Father Tom made sure he was available himself at 11:30 p.m. to talk to him,” DiLucido said.

McCarthy also was just as happy to help young people discern vocations other than religious life.

“He said they were discerning life,” she said. “Whether it was married life or single life or religious life.”

That’s the approach McCarthy intends to take at the Vatican.

“It’s about bringing Jesus into people’s lives and making him relevant, and that could be continuing what they are already doing, maybe bringing someone back or bringing them to Jesus for the first time,” McCarthy said. “I believe and agree with what Pope Francis is doing, how he preaches the Gospel, how he reaches out to the peripheries and to people who are hurting. If I can be part of that, I want to take that opportunity.”

Topics:

  • vatican
  • augustinians

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