Norwood pastor going back to Rome

Perhaps one of the most widely known priests of the archdiocese, Msgr. Cornelius M. McRae, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Norwood since July 1, 2000, will soon become the spiritual director of the Casa Santa Maria, the Roman home for American priests pursuing graduate studies at various Roman universities.

The move is actually a return to familiar ground for Msgr. McRae, who was the spiritual director at the seminary's main campus "on the hill" overlooking both Rome and Vatican City from 1995 to 2000. In that time, he served as spiritual director for students from around the country who were completing their theological studies in preparation for ordination in various American dioceses.

The Brockton native is one of the three children of the late Francis and Helen McRae. He attended the city's public schools and was graduated from Brockton High School in 1953. He entered the archdiocesan seminaries first at Jamaica Plain's Cardinal O'Connell Seminary and then Brighton's St. John's Seminary.

Auxiliary Bishop Jeremiah Minihan, himself a former pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish, ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Name Church, West Roxbury, on Feb. 2, 1961. Following ordination he was an assistant in two parishes: Sacred Heart, Natick (1961-1962) and Our Lady of Mercy, Belmont (1962-1969).

In 1969 he was appointed to the faculty of St. John's Seminary, Brighton where he was a spiritual director for several generations of priests. In 1974 he was granted a master's degree in theology from the Jesuit run University of San Francisco. In 1986 Cardinal Law named him rector of Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston. While on the Brighton faculty he was also a team member of the Papal Visitation of American Seminaries (1983-1986).

His first appointment as spiritual director in Rome was in 1995 and his new appointment is effective at the end of May 2011. He will be succeeding Msgr. John Dewane, a priest of the diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

At the Casa, Msgr. McRae will join his successor at Blessed John XXIII, Msgr. Francis Kelly, who was rector of the Weston seminary following Msgr. McRae, serving from 1995 until 2005 when he was named director of the Casa Santa Maria.

Msgr. McRae has given priests' retreats both in the U.S. and overseas; he has been active in Cursillo; and the archdiocesan presbyteral council. Returning to familiar territory in Rome and familiar responsibilities as spiritual director he brings a new dimension to this assignment -- his more than decade long experience as pastor of St. Catherine Parish.