Sun City, greater diocesan community mourn loss of Fr. Joe McGaffin

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Fr. Joseph McGaffin (1964-2017)

Ordained: June 1, 1996

Service in the Diocese of Phoenix:
1996-2006: Parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Chandler, St. Paul Parish in Phoenix, St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale, St. Jerome Parish in Phoenix and St. Clement of Rome Parish in Sun City.

2006-2010: pastor of Resurrection Parish in Tempe

2010-2016: pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Sun City

Visitation: 3-7 p.m. Feb. 16 at St. Elizabeth Seton, 9728 W. Palmeras Dr. in Sun City

Vigil service: 5-7 p.m. Feb. 16 at St. Elizabeth Seton

Mass: 10 a.m. Feb. 17 at St. Elizabeth Seton

Internment: Holy Redeemer Cemetery

In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations to support Phoenix’s seminarians
Diocese of Phoenix Office of Vocations, 400 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

Fr. McGaffin, who most recently served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Sun City until respiratory problems surfaced last fall, passed away Feb. 12. He was 52.

The family ties between Fr. Joe McGaffin’s earthly and heavenly families were a bit evident. He was born on the feast of the Immaculate Conception to a Catholic family including a maternal grandmother who always wanted a priest in the family.

Then there was that maternal sense that her son would go into some form of work for the Church. His mother, Marie, shared such insights with The Catholic Sun surrounding his ordination 20 years ago.

His family moved to Arizona from New York when Fr. McGaffin was 14. They were St. Joan of Arc parishioners where the would-be priest also served as youth minister. Mother and son also supported catechesis at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Scottsdale.

Strengthening ties to the Church was the common thread between his earthly father and heavenly “grandfather” — Jesus’ foster father. All three were named Joseph. And just two days after his ordination, Fr. McGaffin found himself at a Sun City hospital giving an anointing of the sick to his own father prior to open-heart surgery.

It would be that same retirement community where Fr. McGaffin spent his final days. He hoped to return soon as pastor — Fr. Sylvester Modebei was appointed as temporary parochial administrator in his absence — and made it to the parish one last time to attend a vigil Mass Feb. 11 where he received communion. He was called home by the Lord early the next morning. A few parishioners reportedly cried when they heard the news at Mass.

Fr. McGaffin was ordained in 1996 and shortly thereafter, was honored to baptize his own nephew. He spent the next 10 years administering sacraments to his other brothers and sisters in Christ at a handful of parishes across the diocese: St. Jerome in west Phoenix, St. Paul several miles north, St. Daniel the Prophet in south Scottsdale and St. Clement of Rome in Sun City.

By 2006, he was named pastor of Resurrection Parish in Tempe. Four years later, Fr. McGaffin crossed the Valley one final time to serve as pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Sun City.

John Battoe, a St. Elizabeth Seton parishioner, called Fr. McGaffin “chaplain,” because of his role within the local Knights of Columbus Council. The two also served together on the altar with Battoe calling himself the parish’s oldest altar server.

The two chatted so much that Battoe asked his chaplain to also be his spiritual advisor last summer and once thanked the bishop for sending the parish such a good priest. He described Fr. McGaffin as a good listener who also had effective homilies and loved seeing the priest outside the church before Mass to greeting worshippers.

Battoe also mentioned his pastor’s organization skills. That included working an unusual amount of retirees into the presider and preacher schedules since the parish sits within a retirement community.

“Fr. Joe made it possible for a number of our retired priests and deacons to [serve] here once a week,” Battoe said.

Possible updates to come.

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