By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

When Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis was named a bishop 14 years ago, he chose as his episcopal motto, “Stay with us, Lord.”

Throughout his episcopacy, the gentle and gracious Bishop Maginnis has remained a close spiritual leader to those entrusted to his care, catechizing countless people in the pews, conferring the sacrament of confirmation, visiting the imprisoned, promoting a respect for the sanctity of all life, reaching out to migrants and refugees, Black Catholics and Hispanic Catholics and bolstering relations with non-Catholics, among numerous other duties. {{more}}

He was ordained a priest in 1961, named a monsignor in 1982 and ordained a bishop in 1996. And although a priest never technically retires, as required by canon law Bishop Maginnis officially tendered his resignation at age 75. Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation last week.

At a press conference June 8, Bishop Maginnis said he looked forward to continuing to be of service to the Archdiocese, assisting Cardinal Justin Rigali wherever needed, but that he was looking forward to having more time to read and to spend in prayerful reflection.

The Bishop has devoted 49 of his 76 years to the priesthood, 21 of which were spent in youth ministry.

Bishop Maginnis served as the episcopal liaison for the Bicentennial of the Church of Philadelphia as a diocese, coordinating numerous aspects of the yearlong celebration which concluded in April 2008. “The bicentennial was really designed to be a year of grace for our people,” he said at the time.

Early in his episcopacy, Bishop Maginnis was named by then-Pope John Paul II to participate in the Church’s Synod of Bishops in Rome. He was one of nearly 250 bishops from more than 110 countries who met with the pope to examine the role of the bishop during the month-long synod in the fall of 2001.

There, Bishop Maginnis delivered an address about the significance of a bishop’s special care for young people, an appropriate topic for him, as he served as director of the archdiocesan Department of Youth Activities from 1981 to 1988 and as the organization’s assistant director from 1967-1981. Today, the department is known as the Office for Youth and Young Adults.

Father Stephen D. Thorne, director of the Office for Black Catholics, first became acquainted with Bishop Maginnis as a high school student when then-Msgr. Maginnis hired him to work in the Department of Youth Activities.

He recalled how then-Msgr. Maginnis acted as a father figure to many through his supportive, easy-going and engaging demeanor.

“Obviously our roles have changed, but he really hasn’t changed,” said Father Thorne.

In his current work with Father Thorne, Bishop Maginnis has underscored the importance of working in the field, not solely from behind the desk. “Evangelization is really get on your feet, go out, preach, teach,” Father Thorne said.

This year and last, Bishop Maginnis led the planning committee for the Men’s Spirituality Conference, which drew thousands of men from across the Archdiocese for worship led by the Cardinal and included addresses by men of national prominence, including pro athletes.

Bishop Maginnis also has been instrumental in promoting and participating in the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., and assisting with the annual archdiocesan Catholic Life Congress.

Laura Ford, administrator of the archdiocesan Prison Ministry Program, said prisoners have come to know Bishop Maginnis as a friend.

“The people who are in prison, by and large, are looking for ways to improve themselves,” Bishop Maginnis said after conferring the sacrament of confirmation to four inmates at the State Correctional Institution in Chester in May 2008.

“In many cases, religion is a factor for them to see that if they have a better relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ – if and when they are paroled – they will become better citizens.”

Bishop Maginnis has consistently made himself present and available to archdiocesan offices involved in evangelization, “particularly with his walkabout visits to the staff in their office areas,” said Deacon David B. Schaffer, the administrative director for the Secretariat for Evangelization.

During his “walkabouts” the bishop has offered wisdom and encouragement and often his renowned Irish wit, Deacon Schaffer added. “His priestly presence as one who came to serve, not to be served, and his leadership will be missed.”

The “remarkable qualities” of Bishop Maginnis have been many, said Sister Kathleen M. Schipani, I.H.M., administrator of the archdiocesan Department for Pastoral Care for Persons with Disabilities.

“It never mattered that Bishop Maginnis could not communicate in American Sign Language or if the person he was meeting was able to use language at all because the persons he interacted with could always comprehend Bishop Maginnis’ way of communicating love, acceptance and a sincere concern,” she said.

“His genuine peaceful demeanor and genial expressions of care in every circumstance helped all of us to turn our thoughts to the loving Good Shepherd, Jesus. What a blessing Bishop Maginnis has been for all of us.”

Msgr. Michael J. Carroll, director of the Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has the distinct privilege of working with his seminary classmate. “He’s always been himself, warm and personable, a welcoming person,” Msgr. Carroll said.

The bishop’s range of associations with leaders and other officials in the arena of ecumenical and interreligious affairs have been instrumental in his role as a consultant and collaborator, Msgr. Carroll added. “That gives him the background to give me the direction,” he said.

Bishop Maginnis served as pastor of St. Colman Parish in Ardmore from 1996 to 2004. “He was very much beloved” by his parishioners, said Anne Breidenstein, 87, who served on the parish pastoral council during Bishop Maginnis’ pastorate.

Bishop Maginnis is also close to the hearts of staff and students at St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont, a residence for children with development and physical disabilities operated by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, and where the bishop currently resides.

“Regardless of how busy his schedule is, he always finds the time to show all of us how much he cares by visiting and calling those who are sick, celebrating Mass for our children and staff and joining us during celebrations and family gatherings,” said Denise Clofine, administrator of St. Edmond’s. “He is a man of great character and his sincerity and integrity has earned the admiration and affection of us all. He will always be part of the St. Edmond’s Home family.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or