Monsignor Bernard O’Connell McGarty, 98, died Monday, May 8, 2023 at his La Crosse, WI home with his niece Elizabeth Flynn at his side.
Bernard was born to Dr. Matthew and Mary O’Connell McGarty on January 13, 1925. He attended St. Mary’s grammar school, Aquinas High School, Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa) and Kenrick Seminary (St Louis, Missouri).
He was ordained a Catholic Priest May 14, 1949 by Bishop John Treacy.
As a Priest for the Diocese of La Crosse, Fr. McGarty began his career at Holy Name Parish, Wausau as Associate Pastor and subsequently performed that role at St. Patrick Parish, Eau Claire.
He served as professor and Director of Vocations at Holy Cross Seminary, and also taught at Regis High School, Eau Claire. Fr. McGarty also served as Pastor at St. Joseph Parish, Elk Mound.
Perhaps his most fulfilling assignment was as Founding Pastor for St. Matthew Parish, Wausau. Early Masses were conducted in a trailer and a car auction lot; the congregation grew and went on to build a beautiful contemporary Church.
He was energized and inspired by the St. Matthews community where lifelong friendships were formed. In the fall of 1983, the Parish dedicated a new parish center as “The House that Mac built.”
He also served as Pastor at St. Patrick Parish, Eau Claire, St.Patrick Parish, Onalaska, and St. Paul Parish, Mosinee. He retired from the Diocese of LaCrosse after 50 years in the priesthood May 1999 as Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, La Crosse.
Fr. McGarty earned his Licentiate Degree and Doctorate of Theology at the Angelicum University, Rome, Italy, publishing his doctoral thesis “John Donne as a Persuasive Preacher” upon completion.
He later served as Editor of the La Crosse Diocesan newspaper The Times Review, a position that he said “finally taught me discipline.”
He was also Director of Ecumenism for the Diocese of LaCrosse. He published “Meditations for Lenten Weekdays” during these years.
Fr. McGarty was an aficionado of the performing arts and would attend any musical or theatrical performance available. He also wrote three plays: “Lydia, a Seller of Purple,” “Early Life of St. Paul,” and “Who is the Greatest American.”
He acted as visiting Professor at Viterbo College, LaCrosse, presenting a research topic to the public each semester for several years, and recently published a compilation of those speeches. He also enjoyed a lifelong appreciation of fine and ecclesiastical art.
Fr. McGarty engaged in an active retirement. In addition to his writing projects he conducted Lenten Missions for many parishes. He participated in outreach and recovery for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. Fr. Bernard led a successful fundraising campaign for the refurbishment of the Cathedral organ, and contributed to the effort to repair the Cathedral façade in recent years. He also encouraged the recovery of the Ontario Community Center; the original O’Connell family homestead was in Ontario.
Fr. Bernard enjoyed entertaining in his home, often engaging musicians and diverse guests to create a dynamic scene. He appreciated a well shared anecdote and delighted in clever jokes.
An avid sportsman, Fr. Bernard bicycled and canoed extensively, which he chronicled in the Times Review newspaper and later compiled and published “Biking and Canoeing in Western Wisconsin” in three volumes.
He enjoyed golf, walking and swimming, and finally retired his downhill skis at age 86, after “hotdogging” resulted in a badly broken leg. He embraced any opportunity for a boat ride on the Mississippi. Mac was a proud single shareholder of the Green Bay Packers. The successes of the State Champion Aquinas football team brought him great joy the last two seasons.
Fr. McGarty was predeceased by his parents and his sisters Mary Rita McGarty and Ellen McGarty Flynn. He is survived by his nieces and nephews: Bernard and Nanette Flynn, their children and grandchildren, Houston TX; Elizabeth Flynn, St.Paul, MN; Mark and Diane Flynn, their children and grandchild, Menlo Park CA; Mary and John Worley, their children and grandchild, Minneapolis, MN; Richard and Gail Flynn and their children, Killington VT; Patricia Flynn Curran and her children, Montpelier, VT, and Matthew Flynn, Charlton MA.
The family extends grateful appreciation for the patient and dedicated caregivers who enabled Fr. Bernard to complete his life in his home, and the devoted attention of niece Elizabeth Flynn during his final years. We also thank friends and colleagues for the visits, cards and phone calls that brightened Mac’s days.
Funeral arrangements are being managed by Blaschke Schneider Funeral Home, 1501 West Avenue South, LaCrosse, WI, 54601.
Friends and Family may call at Blessed Sacrament Church, 130 Losey Boulevard S. Friday, May 19th, 2023 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, May 20th, 2023 at 10:00 AM at Blessed Sacrament Church. Burial following the Funeral Mass at Catholic Cemetery, 519 Losey Boulevard S., La Crosse.