Editor’s Note: This story will be continue to be updated as more information becomes available.
Msgr. Michael O’Grady, retired rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, passed way in his sleep July 13 in his native Ireland. The monsignor was among the “Foreign-Born Irish,” or “FBI” priests that had been in the Diocese of Phoenix from the beginning.
Born May 21, 1934 in Ireland, Msgr. O’Grady grew up in County Clare and was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1958 for the Diocese of Tucson. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Phoenix when it was established in 1969. He became a prelate of honor, gaining the title “monsignor,” from St. John Paul II.
During his years of ministry, Msgr. O’Grady served as parochial vicar at St. Teresa Parish in Phoenix, Holy Cross Parish in Mesa and St. Daniel the Prophet Parish in Scottsdale. He then served as pastor of Christ the King Parish in Mesa, Holy Spirit Parish in Tempe and at St. Daniel, before becoming rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
In a 2016 interview with The Catholic Sun, Msgr. O’Grady reflected on his ministry among Hispanic Catholics, noting the similarities between the culture he was serving and the culture he came from, especially when it came to the emphasis on family life.
“We felt so at home with them because they were very much like us,” Msgr. O’Grady said. “My parents were Catholic to the bone, but they didn’t know much dogma. They went to church and said their prayers.”
Both the Irish and the Mexicans grew up in a land where their nationality was intertwined with the Catholic faith. They could identify with the poverty, having grown up poor themselves, and they knew what it was like to be discriminated against because of the faith too.
“At the time Catholicism was in our bones, in our breath,” Msgr. O’Grady said. “We didn’t know there was anything else. Actually, in my village there was just one non-Catholic and she later converted.”
Imbued with missionary zeal, hundreds of men in Irish seminaries were ordained every year. The late Msgr. John McMahon persuaded many of them to commit to Arizona, though there was perhaps a shenanigan or two along the way.
“He was a good salesman,” Msgr. O’Grady quipped. “We used to joke afterwards that he showed us pictures of Prescott.”
Thinking over a lifetime of service in the Arizona sun, he summed it up: “It’s been a good choice. We’ve loved it here.”
Last year, he was among three priests — the others being Fr. Joseph Hennessy and Msgr. Thomas Hever — who accepted the “Guardian of Hope” Award on behalf of the Irish priests of the diocese, at the annual Night of Hope.
“These Irish missionaries heard Jesus call them and freely gave their lives to go wherever God called them. Each was successful here because he lived the great mystery of the Cross: sacrificial loving,” Bishop Olmsted told the attendees after the priests accepted the award.
He retired in 2005 but remained active in his retirement years offering the sacraments and retreats and serving as chaplain for the Cursillo movement.
“He was a humble and generous priest who always had a heart for those in need,” said Fr. David Sanfilippo, vicar for priests for the Diocese of Phoenix in a message to priests of the diocese. “His great humor, demeanor and holiness will be greatly missed.”
Funeral and Memorial services are not yet set. This story will be updated as more information comes.