Msgr. McNamara was born in Chicago on December 14, 1930, to Irish parents in St. Kilian Parish. He attended St. Carthage School in Chicago and Quigley Preparatory Seminary before beginning his seminary studies in 1952, at the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, where he served as a Sacristan in the school’s chapel. Msgr. McNamara was ordained into the priesthood on May 1, 1956, by Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago. He celebrated his first solemn mass at St. Carthage Parish (closed in 1989), on May 5, 1956.
Msgr. McNamara served in the Archdiocese in a number of different parochial roles. He served as Assistant Pastor of Holy Name Cathedral Parish in Chicago (1956-63); St. Bride Parish in Chicago (1963-68); St. Helena of the Cross Parish in Chicago (1968-70); and Divine Providence Parish in Westchester (1975-79). He also served in the capacity of Pastor at St. Bernard Parish in Chicago (1970-75); St. Symphorosa Parish on Austin Avenue (1980-91); and St. Theresa Parish in Palatine (1992-2001). Msgr. McNamara was named Pastor Emeritus of St. Theresa Parish upon his retirement in 2001.
Msgr. McNamara served the Archdiocese outside of a parish setting as well, as Defender of the Bond for the Metropolitan Tribunal (1969), and as a full-time member of the Archdiocesan Clergy Personnel Board (1975-79).
Contemporaries at Mundelein Seminary described Msgr. McNamara as “quiet, reserved, punctual, cooperative, devoted, [and] dependable.” He demonstrated these virtues and others throughout his career with the Archdiocese, earning the title of Prelate of Honor of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
Rev. Robert Tonelli, retired Archdiocesan priest, will deliver the homily at Msgr. McNamara’s Funeral Mass. The two became friends during their time at St. Theresa Parish in Palatine. Fr. Tonelli recalled, “I found him to be very much a priest’s priest; he loved going to social gatherings with priests, made sure to visit them when they were sick and attended many of their funerals. He truly cared about the brotherhood of priests.” He went on to say, “After three terms as a Pastor in the Archdiocese, he had the experience of being a good pastoral person and he came to really understand the human condition. He was not judgmental at all; in fact, he was very open, understanding and gentle towards the people he served.”
Fr. Tonelli added, “I always found Msgr. McNamara to be truthful and honest. Sometimes boldly honest. Nevertheless, he was always very gentle with people. He had a hearing impairment in both ears and I can recall him often saying, “Pardon me, what did you say?” in the softest, kindest way. He was used to people not knowing and never made them feel bad for it.”
Rev. Michael Walsh, retired Archdiocesan priest and classmate, has shared a 72 year long friendship with Msgr. McNamara. He recalled, “Msgr. McNamara shared a long friendship that was strong for all those years. He was always known as a leader in scholastics.” He added, “He was one of the first residents of Bishop Lyne Home after it opened in February 2001 and he was very well-known there.”
Most Rev. Raymond Goedert, retired Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, supported Fr. Walsh’s mention of Msgr. McNamara’s role at the Bishop Timothy J. Lyne Residence for Retired Priests in Palos Park. He said, “A noteworthy fact is the care Msgr. McNamara’s showed his brother priests at the Bishop Lyne Home. He was among the first group who went there when it opened and he became the primary person to oversee the program. Msgr. McNamara remained very dedicated to that program until the end.”
Rev. Msgr. Richard T. Saudis, Associate Vicar for Canonical Services, knew Msgr. McNamara from the Seminary days. He said, “Msgr. McNamara was a devoted priest for over sixty years and he had a great reputation throughout the Diocese.” Msgr. Saudis added, “He had a fine Irish disposition!”
Msgr. McNamara will lie in state on Friday, August 12, from 3 to 9 p.m., at St. Barnabas Parish, 10134 South Longwood Drive in Chicago. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, August 13, at 10 a.m., also at St. Barnabas Parish. Archbishop Blase J. Cupich will be the main celebrant and Fr. Tonelli will be the homilist.
Msgr. McNamara is survived by a sister Nancy Grant, a brother-in-law Tom Moran, and nieces and nephews.