By Liz Sullivan
“Together in Christ.”
That is the Episcopal Motto of Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, second and now retired Bishop of San Jose. (When priests are ordained bishops they select a motto).
For 20 years, that has been a focus of the Bishop’s work in the Valley of Saint Clare. It is a theme the Bishop now takes into retirement as he formally stepped down from leading the faithful of the faithful of the Diocese since November of 1998 when he replaced founding Bishop Pierre DuMaine.
Bishop McGrath’s retirement was made public on May 1 by the Holy See. Every Bishop of the Catholic Church must submit a request for retirement to the Vatican as they approach their 75th birthday. Bishop McGrath will turn 74 in June.
Taking over as the leader of the Diocese is Bishop Oscar Cantú, 52, who has spent the last 10 months becoming familiar with the Diocese of San Jose. Bishop Cantú had previously been the Bishop of Las Cruces, N.M.
“I have a lot of gratitude towards God for the ministry I have and for putting into my life people who love the Church,” said Bishop McGrath about a month before his retirement. “They have been a great comfort to me. We have had many good days amid the challenges and we have done it ‘Together in Christ.’ There are a lot of emotions involved for me right now.”
Ordained a priest in 1970 for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Bishop McGrath became the second bishop of San Jose on November 27, 1999 upon the retirement of DuMaine, who led the Diocese since its founding in 1981. Just as Bishop Cantú did, Bishop McGrath spent about 10 months serving as Coadjutor Bishop in San Jose.
“When I was appointed (Auxiliary) Bishop (in San Francisco in 1989) I said to Archbishop (John) Quinn I won’t have a parish anymore and I will miss that interaction with the people. He told me not to worry, a Bishop always has people to pray with.”
Bishop McGrath credits the late Archbishop Quinn and William Cardinal Levada, also from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, as serving as mentors to him.
“I learned a great deal from both of them,” said Bishop McGrath. “I watched them and saw how they ran the Archdiocese of San Francisco. They were inclusive of all people, including, and especially, lay people.”
As he steps back from working full-time for the first time in his adult life, Bishop McGrath hasn’t decided definitely on what he’ll do in retirement.
“I have been given this gift (of retirement), he said. “I think I will step back from active ministry for the first six months. I might audit some classes in architecture or travel. I was very close with Mother Teresa and I have never been to India, so I might go and see her tomb.”
Bishop McGrath does know how fortunate he’s been.
“I have been lucky as I have always been surrounded by supportive people,” the Bishop said. “I have never felt like an outsider. I have felt really welcomed as Bishop, just as the people are now welcoming Bishop Cantú.”
Bishop McGrath is at peace as he leaves as head of the Roman Catholic Church in Santa Clara County.
“I was concerned about the transition at first for the people and the clergy,” he said. “Bishop Cantú is an excellent choice. He’s a reflective man, who is kind and compassionate. He’s not a pushover. He will be a good shepherd.”