Father Connell J. Maguire, 94, a U.S. Navy chaplain for 26 years, died in Florida April 12.
Born in Glenties, Ireland, the son of the late Bernard and Catherine (Gallagher) Maguire, he migrated to America with his family at age 11. The family settled at first in Mount Airy and then Chestnut Hill and he graduated from Holy Cross School, Northeast Catholic High School and La Salle College before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
“He was always a happy guy and he loved people,” said his younger sister, Teresa Duff. “When he decided to go into the seminary none of us were surprised except for our father. He told him he wouldn’t last two weeks because he had so many girlfriends. But the girl he was dating went into the convent and he went into the seminary.”
He was ordained by Bishop Hugh L. Lamb at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul on Feb. 24, 1945 with early assignments at St. Elizabeth Parish in Pen Argyl (now part of the Allentown Diocese) and St. Mary of the Eternal Parish in Philadelphia. In 1952 he entered the U.S. Navy as a chaplain. He served in various posts around the world including wartime Vietnam and also in Japan Australia and Hawaii as well as ship duty.
His most dramatic moment came in Hawaii, when a Marine went berserk, shot a sergeant and was holding another man captive. By then a lieutenant commander, Father Maguire went to the room where the Marine was holed up, over several hours soothed him, and eventually he surrendered. For this he received the Marine Corps Medal, the highest peacetime award given.
After his retirement with the rank of captain in 1978, Father Maguire cared for his aging parents and after that, although still a Philadelphia priest, relocated to Florida, where in recent years he worked among the Guatemalan community at Holy Cross Parish in Indiantown. “He went back to college to learn Spanish so he could do it,” Teresa Duff said. “He had quite an interesting full life and people visited him from all over. You had to make a reservation before you went.”
Father Dominick Chiaravalle remembers Father Maguire from his St. Mary of the Eternal days. “He taught me to be an altar server; I had a great admiration for him,” Father Chiaravalle said. “Indirectly he influenced my vocation. The two lost touch over the years until later in life Father Maguire would come back to Philadelphia for the priests’ retreat at Malvern, and “Whenever I was in Florida I would stop in to see him,” Father Chiaravalle said.
In 2003 Father Maguire published a memoir “Follies of a Naval Chaplain,” which reflected his Irish gift of storytelling, and he subsequently published two more books.
Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated Father Maguire’s funeral Mass on April 21 at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Glenside. Among the concelebrants were Father Edward A. Hamilton of the Diocese of Orlando, and Father Chiaravalle, who was the homilist.
In addition to his sister, Teresa, Father Maguire is survived by his brothers, Bernard and Daniel, and sister, Kathleen Lindh.
Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Philadelphia.