Interview with Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A.

Patrick Murphy: Hello everybody. This is Patrick Murphy with the Augustinians. I am here today with Fr. Tom McCarthy. Fr. Tom McCarthy is currently the Director of Augustinian Vocations in the Midwest Province as well as in the East Coast Province. Fr. Tom McCarthy is also the Chairman of the Board at St. Rita High School in Chicago after being the president there for many years. He's also the chaplain there. Thank you very much, Fr. Tom. It's a pleasure to have you with us.

McCarthy: You're welcome, Patrick. Good to be with you.

Murphy: I want to get things started and what I like to ask all the friars is what was it that called you to be an Augustinian?

McCarthy: I think, I know, I shouldn't say I think, I know it was the example of the friars that I met at St. Rita High School when I was a student and I just liked them personally first of all, but then as a community, I got to know them. I actually worked in the monastery answering the phones to help pay my tuition and I got to know them personally on a very individual basis and I saw the way they lived their life. I saw they way they prayed, the way they had fun with each other, and it just really attracted me to saying this is what I want. I like this. That was what initially attracted me.

Murphy: Out of curiosity, I've spoken with some friars that said that they were attracted to the priesthood first and others said they were attracted to the Augustinians at the same time. Do you have one or the other, where you're attracted to the priesthood first or was it the Augustinians that lured you in or what was it?

McCarthy: I think that I was certainly thinking about being a priest and I visited the diocesan high school seminary and something did not connect with me. I personally think it was because they had me doing math and science during that summer program, which I didn't care for, and so then I just said that's not for me. I went to an open house at St. Rita and I felt something right away. I can say now what I felt was the Augustinian community and the Augustinian way of doing things.

I would say that I was attracted to priesthood, but then when I got to St. Rita, I realized that I was able to live community as a priest, as a religious, and in this case, specifically as an Augustinian. That's what I think really attracted me was their sense of community, that I could live in community and also be a priest.

Murphy: Were there any particular Augustinians in those years for you when you were going to St. Rita that really impacted you?

McCarthy: Definitely. Fr. Ed Griffin, Fr. Leo Cavanaugh, Fr. Pat Murphy, Brother Lawrence Sparacino, those are ones, Fr. LaVern Flach, those are the ones that came to my mind right off the bat and then there was Bro. Joe Fischer who was our band moderator, Fr. David Brecht was the principal. Bro. Patrick Strong, Fr. Dan Gridley, these are all guys that I just really got to know and like and said I want to be like them.

Murphy: That's good. I know that's a dangerous question sometimes because I know the list can just go on and on. The next question I have here is we've talked a little bit about the Augustinians developing you with St. Rita, but today, in today's society, what would you say the role is of the Augustinian Order and are the Augustinians still relevant in today's society?

McCarthy: Absolutely. Absolutely we're relevant. Our world is in such dire need of community, of working together, being with each other, of peace because so many parts of our world are just so devoid of peace. Community does that and so as Augustinians I think we're called to bring people together in whatever ministry we're doing, whether it's in the community or even as an individual friar, to really build up the Body of Christ in whatever work we do, to touch people in the positive, the difficult times of their lives.

Whether it's through our teaching apostolates or our parish apostolates, our chaplaincies, retreats... to do these things and to truly show that first of all, Jesus Christ is relevant today, and one of his faithful followers, Augustine and his flavor of how to do it, is very relevant. We need community and the Church needs us. I truly believe that. I think it's a gift. One of the gifts or the many gifts of the Church are the different charisms of religious communities. I think a very rich charism is in our Augustinian charism.

Murphy: I would say that definitely community is indicative of what it is to be  part of that Augustinian family. That's why we hear it in the schools. We hear truth, unity, love. That's very critical in unity. It's funny. We interviewed Fr. Bernie Sienna, the Prior Provincial, too. The one thing that he really talked about was community as well. I interviewed Bishop Dan Turley. He said the same thing. You use community even in those responses. As you know, the capital campaign of the Augustinians, Continuing Our Journey of Faith, it hopes to build two trusts:  one is for the Fr. Ray Ryan Trust for men in formation and vocation and the other is the Journey of a Lifetime Trust for the retired and infirm Augustinians. Why do you think that this campaign is particularly important right now at this point in time?

McCarthy: To do our work, Patrick, we have to be able to take care of all those who have gone before us, and what I mean by that, are the friars who are retired or sick, because one, that's our first call as a community member. He's my brother. We've got to take care of him. By doing that and then by having other parts of the campaign help us in attracting new members and continuing our work and ministry, we're doing both.

I think it's absolutely essential that we take care of our older friars, take care of the newer guys coming in, and for the generosity of benefactors who work with us and who can help us take that stress off of always worrying about money, always worrying about what's going to happen. If we can take that stress out of the picture and take care of everyone, do what we're called to do, we're going to do more for God and more good.

Murphy: Going off of that, you have a unique perspective as the current Director of Augustinian Vocations and we've been blessed for the past few years. We see our third year of continuous growth. We have dozens of men in formation across the entire US, but is there anything you could say about the guys that are currently still discerning a vocation with the Augustinians? A lot of our donors don't get to meet them all the time. Is there anything in particular that you can say about the group of guys that are coming to you?

McCarthy: I would first say they're very solid. They're very faith-filled and they are filled with wonder. What I mean by that is they don't know it all yet, but there's something that's attracted them, and they want to go further. No different than myself or any other friar, something attracted us and I'm seeing that in our guys. The more they meet the other friars, they love meeting the older friars, they love going to our ministries. They love being involved because this is something that they're saying God, is this what you want me to do?

They're doing it with each other and they're doing it in a community and community keys where there are many others just like them asking the same questions. I think they're a huge support to each other. I know they're a huge support and inspiration to me and many other friars because we've already said yes to this life. We believe in it. To see young people see what we're doing and saying yes, I too believe in that and want to be a part of it, it's edifying. It really is.

Murphy: I'm hoping that maybe we have some people stumble onto this interview that are in that pool, that are currently discerning of a vocation. Maybe they find us online. Maybe we send them a post card or something. Do you have any advice for any of those that are listening in, maybe hearing these words for the first time, hearing your words, do you have any advice for what they can do to further discern their vocation?

McCarthy: Absolutely. First and foremost, pray. Then do something about it. Get a hold of us. Go to our websites. See some of our videos. See what we're about. See the ministries that we do. See how we're touching people's lives. Get in touch with me. Get in touch with a friar and come visit us. Talk to us. Meet guys in formation and don't be afraid. Don't be afraid. By getting information, you're not signing your life away. By getting information, you're saying I want to see what this is all about, and that's what I would encourage young mention to do.

Murphy: That's great advice. Just to echo that, there's plenty of resource on-line. You can find more information about Fr. Tom if you visit Find us on Twitter and Facebook as well. The last question I have here, Fr. Tom, is why should others consider going the extra mile to make a special gift to the capital campaign? There's already been more than a hundred contributing, but why should others consider doing so?

McCarthy: I would say it's a concrete way of saying thank you to a friar, to us as a community, the ministries we've done. Whether a friar has baptized your baby, buried your mother, married you, educated your children, visited you in a hospital, gave you a retreat, it's a way of saying thank you when we're not asking for anything really much, especially when we do these ministries, but to say thank you so that this can continue and attract other people so that the legacy of the Augustinians and our benefactors who are such a part of us will continue forever and ever.

Murphy: Thank you. Thank you. Very well put. For anybody listening if you want more information, you can find more here at You can also get in touch with Campaign Director, Michael Gerrity by calling him at 773-595-4035. Thank you again, Fr. Tom. I know you're busy running all around the country meeting with young guys, but we'll continue to keep you in our prayers. Thank you for the work you're doing on the capital campaign as a Vice-Chair as well, and we will continue to pray for vocations.

McCarthy: Amen, and Patrick, thank you and thank you to the whole campaign, everyone who is contributing and everyone who is prayerfully considering it. Thank you. God bless you and St. Augustine pray for us.

Posted on November 21, 2014 and filed under Tom McCarthy O.S.A..