Living the Faith: Marcia McGrail

LOWELL -- The McGrail family is a pillar of the parish community at St. Michael Parish.

Speaking from her Lowell home, Marcia McGrail explained how her husband’s great grandparents, grandparents, parents, their children, their grandchildren and now their great-grandchildren have all received their sacraments within its walls.

“It’s what we call our home,” she said.

McGrail herself has been a parishioner since 1943 when her mother, who was of Polish descent, left the Polish national parish and asked to join the parish in order to give her children a more universal view of the Church.

“She wanted us to really get a sense of the Church being catholic,” McGrail recalled. “She was a wonderful woman.”

Joining the parish at such an impressionable age is one reason she has always felt called to serve, she added.

“When you’re 11 and you become part of the parish, it becomes part of you,” she said.

This call was further strengthened when her husband, John McGrail, told her that he felt called to become a permanent deacon. John McGrail was ordained in 1980 and, until he passed away five years ago, served in the parish.

“We were involved in so much,” she said.

During those years, McGrail was a lector, an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and helped her husband in a myriad of ways, supporting his ministry in any way she could.

When McGrail found herself widowed after 51 years of marriage, it was the St. Michael Parish community that she turned to for solace, she said.

“It was a wonderful place to be at the time,” she said.

McGrail has continued to be just as active in her parish since becoming a widow, although she notes that her involvement has changed.

“You never really stop growing in the Church, but you do change,” she said.

Currently she is more involved in the “worship and hospitality” aspect of the parish. Once a month she, together with a group of parishioners, wakes early and cooks a hot breakfast for all the daily communicants following the 7 a.m. Mass.

“By serving breakfast in the parish hall once a month, we have become more in tune with what’s going on in each other’s lives,” the 76-year-old said. “Most of the Mass-goers are people who are retired so we have a chance to really get to know one another.”

The success of the morning breakfast prompted her pastor, Father Albert Capone, to ask the group if they would “cater” the parish’s recent 125th Anniversary celebration with Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley.

“That was quite an honor,” she said.

For McGrail, that 125th Anniversary Mass was the embodiment of what the term “Catholic” means to her, she said. Celebrating with her fellow parishioners, in a place where she feels at home, with nine different languages being used during the reading of the Prayers of the Faithful, McGrail recalled her mother’s desire to bring her to the universal Church.

“This is the parish my mother wanted us to be in,” she said.

St. Michael Parish, Lowell

Year established -- 1883

Pastor -- Father Albert Capone

Parochial Vicar -- Father Mario Orrigo

Deacon -- Deacon Roland Leduc

Pastoral Associate -- Lisa Crowley

Religious Education Director -- Nicole Walsh

Music Director -- Jackie Thurrott

Organist -- William Donahue

Youth Minister -- Jean Haumann

Elementary School Principal -- Mary Frances Chisholm