From Kathy Almazol, former Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of San Jose, who retired in June 2018. Recalling twenty years with Bishop McGrath
Since 1998, and until 2018. I had the joy and privilege to work for and with Bishop McGrath. In those twenty years, Bishop was always willing to come to the schools and engage with the students. He always asked that time be set-aside for him to ‘have a cup of coffee” with the teachers. He seemed to delight in the questions of the students and the reaction they might get from him. On two very memorable occasions I watched him carefully answer a middle school student who had queried what to do if your parents didn’t drive you to church on Sunday. Was she in sin for missing Mass? Bishop took a minute to answer and then directed her to the Bible and the scripture readings for the days she missed. He supported her desire to go to Mass, and reassured her that Jesus was not disappointed in her non-attendance. There was indeed a look of relief on her face. Another student asked why we don’t talk about the life issues of abortion and capital punishment together. Again, Bishop took a moment and then explained that these two issues are indeed on the continuum of life concerns. He reassured her that he personally did not believe in capital punishment and always included it in letters to his priests when asking them to pray for the unborn. Bishop never shied away from the difficult questions. He welcomed them. He shared stories from his own middle school years with the students, and the struggle he encountered with his parents and siblings.
Younger students asked him if he was married? Do you have any children? And each time he would smile that impish smile and explain over and over that Catholic priests do not marry. To the question of his children his response was always, “all of you are my children.” The students would all smile at this reference not understanding it! To cap off the visit to classrooms he would take off his ring and pass it around for the children to try on their fingers. He always tried to make his life real to the students.
Bishop McGrath visited every school that requested a visit every year for these twenty years. Students, teachers, principals and the entire school staff looked forward to these visits and always felt comfortable in his presence. He often told us that these school visits were the best part of his job and he looked forward to them every year. He never tired of the questions and was always smiling when he left the campus to return to the Chancery and the business work of the church.
Bishop McGrath loved the children in his Diocese. He often reminded us he was responsible for ALL the children in the Diocese of San Jose, not just those in Catholic school, but in all schools and parish programs. His presence celebrating with all these children made him a real and relational person to each and every one of them. Bishop’s sense of humor, his gift for storytelling and his delight in being with “his children” will remain a highlight of our collective experience with him. On behalf of many, many children, Thank You, Bishop!