A week after the Rev. William "Father Bill" McCarthy died in Yarmouth at 82, more than 500 mourners filled Thursday the Quincy church where he was pastor from 1977 to 1995. The congregation at St. John the Baptist included men and women he’d baptized and married over the years, a few of whom he’d coaxed off the street. There were three former mayors, and a group of 40 South Shore priests in white cassocks, who filled one section of front pews .
A week after the Rev. William "Father Bill" McCarthy died in Yarmouth at 82, more than 500 mourners filled the Quincy church where he was pastor from 1977 to 1995.
The congregation at St. John the Baptist on Thursday included men and women he’d baptized and married over the years, a few of whom he’d coaxed off the street. There were three former mayors, and a group of 40 South Shore priests in white cassocks, who filled one section of front pews.
“Everyone knew Father Bill,” Bishop John Dooher said after the service.
During the Mass, the bishop said McCarthy might have wondered why such a ceremony was being held for him.
“Father Bill would have said, ‘I’m just an ordinary man,’” Dooher said. “But he was a man who did extraordinary things.”
Many who knew and worked with McCarthy had hoped Cardinal Sean O’Malley would attend the funeral, but a Boston Archdiocese spokesman said earlier this week that the cardinal was away and unable to return for the service.
“Cardinal O’Malley would be here if he could,” Dooher said during the service.
Sister McKeon, Sister Joanne Westwater of the Maria Droste Center and others would have liked that. But they said everyone knows what McCarthy did for the poor and homeless.
“He’s a saint,” said McKeon, who helped start Father Bill’s Place. “If he doesn’t get to heaven, none of us will.”
Former shelter resident Andie Jermain felt the same way. After McCarthy helped get her and a daughter out of the shelter and into an apartment, “I had to be here,” she said. “He’s a part of my life.”
The funeral came a day after the city paid its respects to McCarthy during a wake at the same church.
Employees and residents of Father Bill’s Place arrived at the wake on a school bus. Some stood outside the church and told stories of the impact Father Bill had on their lives. Others bowed their heads and cried on the church steps.
Julia Brewer, a shelter resident, never met Father Bill but has been affected by his deeds.
“He has touched my life without even knowing it,” Brewer said. “He has given me a place to sleep and a starting point to begin my life, and he has brought me back to faith.”
In memory of Father Bill, Brewer is writing a story about her life struggles.
George Rigby of Quincy shared a story of Father Bill that he says he will never forget. Rigby remembers a woman who came to Father Bill crying because she could not afford her rent. When Father Bill saw how devastated she was, he brought her to his office and wrote a $300 check to her landlord.
That’s just one story of how McCarthy put others before himself.
Brent Soares has worked at Father Bill’s Place for 11 years. Soares said it was gratifying to watch Father Bill walk through the shelter and see the services being provided for other people.
“If you say the word ‘hope’, Father’s name will always appear,” Soares said. “There is probably not a corner in this state who does not know who Father Bill was. As far as out of state, even a lot of people know his name. ...That man had that kind of effect on a lot of people.”
Patriot Ledger writer Tony Catinella may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.