A priest whose name was etched on the homeless shelter he founded, on the lives of those the shelter served and on his Quincy parishioners, Father William R. McCarthy died in Yarmouth on July 24. He had lived in his own Cape Cod home since his retirement as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish, Quincy on Feb. 1, 1995.
A Haverhill native, he was born in the Bradford section of the city and son of Sacred Hearts Parish there. He was the sole survivor of the three children of the late John and Mary (Reardon) McCarthy. His sister, Mary and his brother Father John McCarthy both predeceased him. His brother died of cancer in 1974 at the age of 61, while serving as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Braintree
He attended the parish school and St. James High School, the neighboring parish’s Catholic high school. For many years Haverhill, and especially -- though not exclusively -- Sacred Hearts and St. James parishes, was a “hothouse” for vocations, especially to the archdiocesan priesthood and to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.
Father McCarthy finished his high school education at St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, Md. He came back to Boston and enrolled in the archdiocesan seminaries, completing his college and theological studies at St. John’s, Brighton.
Archbishop Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on Jan. 10, 1952. He celebrated his first Mass in Haverhill and reported to his first assignment as an assistant at St. Rose of Lima, Chelsea on Jan. 22, 1952.
The Chelsea assignment would be one of three parish assignments he would have in the 42 years he served in the archdiocese before his retirement on Feb. 1, 1995.
Following 11 years in Chelsea he was assigned as an assistant at St. Gregory Parish, Dorchester on Feb. 12, 1963. Just a few days shy of his 14th anniversary at Dorchester, Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in downtown Quincy on Feb. 1, 1977.
During the next 18 years he served the Quincy parish with the able assistance of a number of associates and priests in residence. His hallmark contribution to the parish was the initial use and eventual conversion of the then recently shuttered parish school into a shelter for the homeless and a food pantry for the hungry. The shelter grew with needs and services and got a larger home with an “extra push” by Father Bill. Known ultimately as “Father Bill’s Place” the shelter became a focus of parish and city outreach. His determination and quiet resolve earned wide support from folks within and outside Quincy.
For many years both before and after his retirement he was a familiar face celebrating Mass at mid-cape parishes, including St. Pius Tenth, South Yarmouth and Our Lady of Victory, Centerville.
When locals learned of his death, though he had been ill for sometime, there was no shortage of tributes. He would probably want his greatest tribute to be that he helped many with his ideas and his life.
South Regional Bishop John Dooher was to be the principal celebrant of Father McCarthy’s Funeral Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, Quincy on July 30.
Over the course of his life he made many priest friends in the archdiocese and also in our neighboring diocese to the south, Fall River. A priest of that diocese, Father Phillip A. Davignon, pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption, Osterville was to be the homilist.
Among those indicating their attendance at the Funeral Mass as concelebrants were Very Rev. Thomas Foley, vicar for parish life and leadership; Father Kevin Sepe, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Braintree (where Father McCarthy’s brother had served) and also South region Vicariate I’s vicar; Father Richard Cannon, pastor of St. John, Quincy; Father Peter Quinn, presently pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, Westford, who had succeeded Father McCarthy as St. John’s pastor; Father James McCune, director of the office for senior priests; Father Timothy Murphy, pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, Salem; and another Fall River priest, Father Mark Hession, pastor of Our Lady of Victory, Centerville.
Following the Funeral Mass Father McCarthy was buried in St. James Cemetery, Haverhill.