In Memoriam: Fr. Richard Basil McCafferty, SJ
Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Born February 10, 1925
Entered the Society on November 12, 1953
Died at Sacred Heart Center, Los Gatos, California, March 18, 2013
Fr. Richard McCafferty, SJ
Richard was born in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, on February 10th, 1925, and was baptized in the cathedral there five days later. Perhaps presaging his future professional interests, family members were involved in broadcasting and print journalism and his father had written for The New York Times. Richard attended local schools and then St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1946. He came to the U.S. a year later, studying business for a year in Miami and then working in New York City, in the advertising business.
In 1953, he entered the novitiate of the New England Province, Shadowbrook, in Lenox, Massachusetts. He was several years older than even the college graduates in his class but that didn’t interfere with his fitting in; all his life he had a youthful, pragmatic spirit, always ready for any adventure. He took his first vows in November 1955, while in his first year of philosophy studies at Weston. In 1958-1959, he had a one-year regency, teaching history at St. George’s College, Kingston, Jamaica. From 1959 to 1963, with several of his contemporaries, he did theology studies at Eegenhoven, outside Louvain, Belgium, where he was ordained in 1962. In 1963-1964, he did tertianship at Pomfret Center, Connecticut. He then studied communications at Northwestern, receiving an M.A. in 1965 and a Ph.D. in 1969, expecting to be involved in media work in Jamaica but for some reason that never happened.
Instead, with degree in hand, he taught communications at a number of institutions, gradually moving westward: Fairfield University, St. Stephen’s College in Missouri, San Jose State, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Arizona State, and Mills College in Oakland. In all these places, he wrote regularly for newspapers, including National Catholic Reporter, and found local parishes and Newman Centers that needed help. For a time he worked with film studios and TV producers.
In 1990, he accepted a position teaching philosophy at Las Positas College, where he began his long acquaintance with and love for the people of Livermore, then a fast-growing community east of the Oakland hills, home to many of the scientists connected to the national security research laboratories there. In 1994, he joined the staff of St. Charles Borromeo Parish there, an energetic faith community with award-winning catechetical programs and good church music. He remained a key part of the parish life almost until his death, even serving as pastor for several years, during which the parish undertook significant renovations on its church and plant. Parishioners responded to his practical energy, a theology very much in the spirit of Vatican II, and his sympathetic pastoral manner.
In 2011, he moved to a senior residence in the neighborhood, where he and his beloved cat Tinkerbelle (the latest in a series) were cared for by devoted friends from the parish. In late 2012, his health began to fail and, in 2013, he moved to the infirmary of the California Province at Los Gatos, California, where he died on March 18th.