The Rev. Robert McGinn, the guiding light and spiritual leader of a congregational group called Community of John XXIII, died Thursday, Oct. 13, surrounded by family, friends and members of his congregation.
Born in July 1918 in Syracuse, N.Y., he entered Holy Rosary College Prep School and graduated in 1936. He entered the seminary of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Philadelphia in 1936 and was ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1944.
For the next 25 years, his assignments included schools and parishes in Michigan, Virginia, Louisiana and California.
At age 50, he married Emily Schuster and thus left the priesthood.
Two years later, he took on the calling of being a spiritual leader to the Community of John XXIII, named after Pope John, who called for Vatican II and opening the church to fresh perspectives.
“Bob’s passing has left an enormous hole in the lives of all who knew him,” Jim Duenow said. “He was ordained a priest and left the active church and married a Jewish woman. He became the spiritual leader of a group here in town. He was not an outcast from the church, but rather extended it through his ministry.
“There were about 30 or 40 of us in John XXIII for the last 35 years. We met each Sunday and had a service and, most importantly, heard a homily from Bob followed by a discussion.
McGinn was also a regular contributor to the Voices pages of The Tribune as a member of the Ministerial Association of San Luis Obispo, with his Viewpoints often dealing with redemption and reawakening of spiritual values.
As the Christmas season beckoned in 2004, he wrote in part: “Any baby born is a certain act of trust all around. From a certain point of view, every baby is a sign that God has not yet given up on us; from one perspective, we entrust what is dearest to us to an uncertain future.
“With trust,” he wrote, “there is context; the most sublime truth is spoken in common syllables.”
“He was the wisest and most well-read man I have ever known,” Duenow said. “He could quote modern or ancient theologians, not to show his smarts but to make points in our discussions. He enriched the life of all of us in his quiet way. This community has lost a great asset.”
A year ago McGinn wrote: “I feel that I have lived on the edge of my life. I made plans, but I can see now that I have never lived by plan, any more than if I had been a bystander watching me live my life. I don’t feel that I have ever been quite sure what was going on. Nearly everything that has happened to me has happened by surprise. All the important things have happened by surprise. And whatever has been happening usually already happened before I have had time to expect it.
“The world doesn’t stop because you are in love or in mourning or in need of time to think. And so when I thought I was in my story or in charge of it, I have only been on the edge of it, carried along. Is this because we are in an eternal story that is happening partly in time?”
McGinn is survived by his wife, Emily McGinn; three stepchildren, Shelley Long (Tim), Daniel Schuster and Larry Schuster (Corinne); and three grandchildren, Shana Long, Tatiana Schuster and Gabriela Shuster.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:30 a.m. today at Nativity of Our Lady, 221 Daly St., followed by a brief service at the Los Osos Valley Memorial Park.