Father Paul: Priest on Campus

 

Father Paul McGill is a priest that works on the University of Windsor campus at Assumption University. His kind and understanding approach has attracted many students to Campus Ministry. Being a priest for more than 40 years, he really knows what he’s talking about.

 

 

How long have you been a priest?

FP: 41 years.

Did something happen that immediately made you want to be a priest or was it a process? Why?

FP: It was a process. I grew up in a very Catholic family, but when I went to university, I got away from the practice of the faith. During my first year, I was an Atheist. Second year, I was an Existentialist. Third year, I was a Zen-Buddhist. And then I thought, “Well, this is a bit silly.” It was great fun but trying to deny my catholicity was like trying to cut off my right arm. So, I thought if I’m going to come back to it, I want to know what I’m doing. I want it to be a mature adult decision. So, I went on a retreat and got involved in the Newman Club at the University of Waterloo. The rest is history.

What has been your biggest highlight as a priest?

FP: I wouldn’t say that one stands out in particular but any time people gather and celebrate, especially if they celebrate you on an anniversary or a significant birthday, it is always great fun. For me, it is very important to gather family and friends in celebration. And obviously, a celebration of that nature would include a eucharist in which I would preside at. So, it’s a chance for me to give back to people that have given me so much.

What has been your biggest struggle as a priest? 

FP: I would have to say the apparent indifference of a lot of Catholics. There are many lukewarm people. As Jesus said, he’d rather see people who are cold or hot, but something lukewarm, you just want to spit out.

How long have you been working at Assumption? What has your experience been like?

FP: This is my second go at it. I was campus minister here for seven years, 23 years ago. And now I’m back, older and wiser. I’ve been very well received. This is my third year in Campus Ministry. After being away from Campus Ministry for so long, I was a little hesitant to coming back. I thought, “Oh, my heavens. The students will have changed. They’ll think that I’m an old fogey.” I was needlessly worried because I seemed to fit right in and we’re having fun.

What does being a priest entail?

FP: Availability, presence, compassion, patience. I’m not one who’s terribly doctrinaire. I think my role is to be there to guide, to support, to encourage, to affirm. In particular, on a campus where there are so many identity issues among young people, whether it be social, sexual, etc., I think it’s important that a church be present and journey with people. Not so much to give them the right answers but to support them and encourage them.

What do you hope to accomplish in your future in the church?

FP: That’s a good question. The ultimate aim of living one’s priesthood is to bring people to know, love, and serve Jesus. Obviously, that is done as much by example as by teaching. I really think that Christians in general, and Roman Catholics in particular, have got a bum rap in our society. I truly think that striving to be Christ-like a la Pope Francis is a tremendous challenge but it’s a great way to live your life.

Advice for people discerning priesthood or religious life?

FP: Yes. Date! Get to know what’s out there! Work! Get a job! Study hard! Then, you have some basis upon which to decide. I think it’s sad when a young man, without doing any of that stuff, decides to become a priest and later on asks the question of “What am I missing?” They might long for that little home, white picket fence, a wife, but it’s a bit too late to pine for that after they’ve been ordained.