Fr. James MacGillivray …
In the early days, months, and even years of my membership in the Companions of the Cross Fr. Jim took me under his wing. He became my spiritual director and along with Fr. Bob, a real mentor. And I was just one of the many strays that he gathered along the way - as many of the Companions priests will testify! He taught us how to practice the Presence of God, lose gracefully on the tennis court – with annoying regularity, pray and live our faith sincerely from the heart, and mix a proper gin and tonic! As one of the brothers said so well recently, he taught us how to live the priesthood in a human and joyful way.
“I often teased Fr. Jim that he could be like an old “busybody grandmother” – but not one of us regretted his care and concern. I can’t count the number of times he would pull someone aside to minister to them, build them up, and encourage them along the sometimes difficult journey to the priesthood. He had a nose for who needed some loving attention. He was also amazingly generous. How many of us did he treat to a fine meal, a trip to Steubenville or Rome, a weekend with the brothers at his cottage, or quietly stuff a few extra dollars in our pockets when we were short? It would be an impressive list!"
Like all good Scotsman, Fr. Jim and I had our share of battles over the years. In retrospect, and with a lot more experience under my belt, I must admit that more often than not – he was right! But we always managed to reconcile and keep our eyes on what really mattered. And what mattered most to him, when all was said and done, was the Lord. He had rough edges for sure, but ultimately he was a man after God’s own heart. He journaled every day the insights the Lord was giving him. There must be a library of those journals somewhere! They are a testimony to his first and deepest love.
Last Friday I came to the hospice to visit Fr. Jim for what I knew in my heart would be the last time. I expected him to be asleep (I was warned that he was stirring less and less) and was prepared to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and slip out quietly. To my surprise he awoke immediately and we not only prayed the Chaplet together with Fr. Allan, but spoke for the better part of an hour. We recalled all sorts of memories from those early days, laughed, and privately spoke from the heart. We even had a good laugh at our glaring imperfections and the spats they caused! I was so touched when he asked what my mother and father looked like so he could meet then in heaven. And I couldn’t hold back the tears when he affirmed me and promised prayers for my episcopal ministry. I gave him an apostolic blessing and as it became clear he was tired – we said goodbye. I am so grateful for that time.
Cranky Scotsman with a heart of pure gold. That’s Fr. Jim. And, I already miss him.
Fr. Jim MacGillivray died peacefully in the early morning hours of April 5, 2017. Fr. Jim served with Bishop Scott on the Companions of the Cross formation team. He also served as Bishop Scott's Personnel Assistant during Bishop Scott's tenure as the General Superior of the Community.