Funeral Homily for the Most Reverend John C. McNabb, O.S.A.

Delivered by the Very Rev. Bernard C. Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D., Prior Provincial of the Midwest Augustinians, on March 4, 2016 at Saint Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel in Chicago.

Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A., following his episcopal ordination in 1967

I am Fr. Bernie Scianna, Prior Provincial of the Midwest Augustinians, the religious order that John joined in 1945. (Well he really knew us many years before at St. Thomas High School in Rockford).

I am delighted to have the Presence of Archbishop of Chicago Blase Cupich, Bishop of Rockford David Malloy, and of course, our other two Augustinian Bishops from our Province,  Bishop of Chulucanas Dan Turley, and Bishop of Chiclayo Bob Prevost.

To John's family, particularly his Sister, Janet, and his nieces and nephews, to his Augustinian Family and Affiliates, to the members of the Chulucanas Mission Club,  Friends of Tolentine, Mendel Grads and indeed to all of us.  Welcome and condolences as we gather to remember and celebrate the life of this great man, Bishop John McNabb!

I am humbled, and indeed privileged to stand here for the wake tonight and the funeral tomorrow for Bishop John McNabb in the very same place that HE ordained me to the priesthood almost 23 years ago!

Now I am Provincial.  However, I will always remember the gift he gave me:  a towel, a kitchen towel.  One that I still have in my room today.  A man who had been serving longer than I was alive, gave me a dish towel?!   Was he losing it?!  A man who was a member of the Second Vatican Council when I was being born in 1965, was giving me a dish towel...Why?  He knew very well why!

The towel symbolizes Humble Service/Foot Washing.  To do what the Lord wants you to do EVEN when it may not be what you want to do!


John's Gospel tells us this about Peter. It is John McNabb's story, too.  The copy of his memoirs is entitled Led Where I Did Not Plan to Go!

He also knew very well how to serve by giving up his comfort of the South Side of Chicago where he was Principal of Mendel Catholic High School - which he had been educated and trained to do at DePaul - to accept the challenge to not only be a Bishop in those challenging times in the Church but also the challenge of starting a new diocese in Peru.  And he didn't even speak Spanish!!!

He did all this and more!  He embraced the principles of Vatican II as [these are] clearly seen in the Pastoral Plan for the Diocese:  Christ is present in His People; Christ reveals Himself through His People; accepting the Presence of Christ in His People is the starting point of development or growth in the faith; all baptized persons ought to be included in the parish community, including those who do not go to Church regularly.

I'm sure you will hear more about Peru from Bishops Dan Turley and Bob Prevost tomorrow [Saturday, March 5]...both worked closely with John.  

How amazing that John was able to ordain Dan his successor as Bishop in Chulucanas.  [Bishop Dan] was once a student of his at Mendel.  And then to be there when Bob was ordained a Bishop in Chiclayo, which was John's last trip to Peru.

The late Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A., processing into Mass at the Holy Family Cathedral in Chulucanas, Peru

Well, his last trip will actually be Wednesday, when these two bishops will take him back for a funeral and burial in the Cathedral in Chulucanas in the Diocese he founded!

But we are not here to canonize John just yet tonight.  We all know that he was quite human ... Thanks to the nurses at Mercy and Hospice nurses who cared for him and special thanks to Mike O'Connor, and Larry Sparacino ... who spent a lot of time with John in addition to his family members! 

Some of his last words to me during the last week of his life when he was in and out of consciousness:  Get me out of here!  I'm ready to go!  When is the funeral?  Give me some water!  I got everything under control!  I'm not in any pain!  Thank you!  Not exactly the seven last words of Christ, but somewhat, expressing acceptance, anticipation, fulfillment and gratitude.

John was also happy to see that we were finally getting vocations again. He was the one who recommended that we use the phrase “Men of Heart” which is currently on the vocation poster.

I once told John, that Tom McCarthy is now using the phrase “Men of Heart” for Vocation work that you recommended.  He chuckled and said, "That's good!"  Then he quickly added, "I told you to use it for something, too, but you never did!"  You didn't have to guess what John was thinking!

He also said on one of our Province retreats soon after I took office, "I'm sure glad that we are finally talking about living and not just talking about dying! We will not get any vocations talking about dying.  We need to be Men of Heart and Men of Hope!" 

We are, John!  We have vocations!  And we have hope!  Thanks for your encouragement, John!

And so we remember, and we celebrate, the Life and Legacy of John McNabb

  • A family man born in Wisconsin and educated at St. Thomas in Rockford—An Augustinian School;
  • A Son, Brother, Uncle;  
  • An Augustinian, a Priest; 
  • A Council Father at Vatican II;
  • Bishop, Founder of a Diocese; 
  • Pastor, Teacher, Administrator, Friend; 
  • A man of faith, a man of hope, a man of heart! 
  • A Man always searching for God along the journey, even when the road led him where he did not plan to go!

May his restless heart now find rest forever in the arms of his loving and merciful God!

Bishop John McNabb, O.S.A. (center); with Fathers Bernie Scianna, O.S.A. (left); and Tom McCarthy, O.S.A. (right) at Saint Rita Shrine Chapel in 2014

And so I leave you with the closing line of his homily that he gave at my ordination here so many years ago which I strive to live each and every day.  He said, "Above all, live a joyful life!" I will, John, and I will always remember the lessons you taught! 

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord...
And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him.

May he rest in peace!  May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace! Amen!

You Have Made Us For Yourself, O Lord, And Our Hearts are Restless Until They Rest in You! 


Updated March 15, 2016

Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy has been working with the Augustinians in fundraising and communications since 2010. He began working with the Augustinian Vocations office in 2015. He also holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management.