Bidding Farewell to Father Andre McGrath, OFM

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by John Mark Willcox

Our faith community lost a dear friend on September 8 as Fr. Andre McGrath, OFM, passed into the Lord’s hands at the friary of St. Mary of the Angels in New Orleans, LA.
Born April 20, 1940, Fr. Andre was blessed with a superior education by a number of learning institutes including Duns Scotus College, Southfield, MI, St. Leonard College, Centerville, OH, the University of Detroit, the University of Tubingen West Germany and Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Ordained as a Franciscan Priest in 1967, Fr. Andre taught at a number of Catholic high schools and colleges in the upper mid-west until his community asked that he travel to Africa to teach at Tangaza Seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. It was this experience that would forever change Fr. Andre’s life and the lives of many faithful men of Africa who were inspired by the ministry of Fr. Andre.

Learning Swahili and working in union with his new comrades, Fr. Andre was instrumental in forming the Community of Franciscan Missionaries of Hope. This order is also known as the Lyke Community in memory of the late Archbishop James P. Lyke, who was the first African-American Archbishop of Atlanta, GA, and a big influence on
Fr. Andre’s priesthood.

When Fr. Andre arrived in the Diocese of Shreveport in the late 1990’s to share his immense knowledge of the Church as an instructor in the Greco Institute, he also brought to America some of the initial members of the Lyke Community – men who would later be ordained to the priesthood and serve in our diocese and other areas of the nation. What a blessing these fine priests have been to the faithful of our diocese and it would not have been possible without the steadfast and successful priesthood of Fr. McGrath.

The members of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Shreveport also benefited from Fr. Andre’s time with our diocese as he served as their pastor for many years, and as chaplain of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy elementary school before its closing.

Whether he was teaching, providing formation to seminarians, immersing himself in the vast culture of Africa, or simply pastoring a local parish, Fr. McGrath made a huge difference in the lives of Catholics on two continents. The people of our diocese are forever touched by Fr. Andre’s presence among us and we give thanks to the Franciscan Community for graciously sharing part of his holy priesthood with the Catholics of our region.

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