Living the Faith: John McLaughlin

DANVERS -- Helping people is what John McLaughlin does best. So much so, that once he retired as a counselor from the Wakefield public schools, this licensed social worker set up an office of sorts in his home parish of St. Mary of the Annunciation in Danvers.

“I do what counselors do,” McLaughlin said modestly. “I’m a social worker and I try to help people who perceive to have problems.”

For over a decade, McLaughlin has been able to see clients, usually referred to him by Father Gerard Dorgan, pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation, at his office in the parish center.

According to McLaughlin, roughly 15 years ago his friend, Father Dorgan, turned to him for advice regarding a parishioner who was “going through a particularly difficult time.”

“He was concerned and I helped him to find some ways we could reach out to this person,” he recalled.

At about the same time, McLaughlin was preparing to retire after almost 20 years of service in the Wakefield public school system. Although McLaughlin was happy at the prospect of retirement, he recalled he “really didn’t want to give it all up.”

Seeing an opportunity to help his parish, McLaughlin asked Father Dorgan if he could be given a place where he could help anyone who needed counseling.

“Father gave me a room to use and a place where people can arrive,” he said. “Doing this has enabled me to keep my hand in [social work] and allowed me to learn and to grow.”

“I have been fortunate that I have been able to continue to do things that are important to me, like counseling,” said McLaughlin, now in his 70s.

“We don’t publicize the counseling here. My referrals come from Father Dorgan,” he added, noting that his clients are “not necessarily parishioners, but also people from the larger Danvers community.”

Aside from his social work, McLaughlin is also an active parishioner at St. Mary of the Annunciation. In the past he has served on the finance committee and is currently involved in the ALPHA program together with his wife, Marie McLaughlin.

“The ALPHA program is a new program which enables anyone to develop a relationship with Christ,” he explained, noting that he is concerned with the large number of inactive Catholics living in Danvers.

“Most of the parishioners here are 50-plus,” he said, “but that’s probably true in every parish.”

“We have a very loyal group of parishioners, and obviously Father Dorgan has much to do with that,” he said.

McLaughlin is originally from Lynn, where he graduated from St. Mary’s High School. In 1960, he received a masters degree from the Boston College School of Social Work. In 1965, McLaughlin and his wife moved to her hometown, where they have raised three daughters and have four granddaughters.