Msgr. Charles E. McGroarty, 86, pastor emeritus of St. Matthew Parish in Philadelphia and a leader in ministries to families through the archdiocesan Family Life Office died March 17.
The son of the late Edward V. McGroarty and the late Margaret M. (McBride) McGroarty, he attended St. Joseph School in Collingdale and St. James High School then entered St. Joseph’s College where he studied for a bachelor’s degree in science.
It was while in college that his mother died. This, he said in an interview, was one factor in his consideration of the priesthood, along with encouragement from his pastor, Father Andrew Lavin. However, his father talked him out of applying to the seminary before he completed his degree.
Back then seminaries were somewhat different. Because he did not have Latin or Greek, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary insisted he start college all over again, which he did. After his studies there he was sent to Rome where he earned his license in sacred theology.
He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Martin O’Conner, rector of the North American College, in December 1962.
Back in Philadelphia in 1963, he served briefly at St. Agatha Parish in Philadelphia then as a math and religion teacher at Roman Catholic High School with residence at St. Raphael Parish, Philadelphia.
That was followed by studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington for a degree in sociology and marriage counseling.
This was followed by assignments to the former Catholic Information Center and the Family Life Office.
“There was a real emphasis in the church on family life in the 1970s and 1980s,” he later explained.
Under his direction the annual Mass for couples celebrating significant anniversaries of marriage began. In the early years it was so popular there were separate Masses for people celebrating 50th anniversaries and over and couples celebrating their 25th.
That was just one of the many programs focusing on marriage begun during his tenure at the Family Life Office that continue in some form today.
During his years in the office Msgr. McGroarty resided at St, Michael Parish, Philadelphia and St. Bartholomew Parish, Philadelphia.
In 1987 he was named pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Philadelphia, where he remained until 2014 when he was named pastor emeritus in 2014 with residence at St. Joseph Parish, Collingdale.
In an interview for his 50th anniversary as a priest, he suggested too much attention is paid today on families’ negatives circumstances.
The challenge, he said, “is to meet the needs of present day Catholics,” and “we should publicize the good things that are being done, not putting our light under a basket.”
Because of the current coronavirus crisis no funeral arrangements have been released. There will be a memorial Mass for Msgr. McGroarty at St. Matthew Church at a future date.
Msgr. McGroarty is survived by many nieces and nephews.
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