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Retired Springfield Bishop Maguire Dies At 95

Diocese of Springfield

Catholics in western Massachusetts are mourning the death of a beloved spiritual leader. Bishop Emeritus Joseph Maguire, retired leader of the Springfield Diocese, died Sunday night. He was 95.

Parishioners at the 9 a.m. mass Monday at St. Catherine of Siena church in Springfield’s 16 Acres Neighborhood said they were saddened to hear of the death of Maguire, who was fondly referred to even years after his retirement  as the “ people’s bishop.”

" He was a spiritual giant and our community has lost a wonderful man," said Rose Lopez, who recalled  Maguire visited her mother in the hospital and later offered comfort and support while Lopez was having a difficult pregnancy.

" Bishop Maguire was just wonderful to everybody he saw. He did not care what denomination you were, he always had a friendly smile, a handshake and encouragement," Lopez said. "  We've suffered a great loss in our diocese."

Maguire, who was the son of a Boston police detective, was installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in 1977 and served through 1991. After retirement, he kept up a hectic schedule that saw him at local church events, visiting the sick at all hours in hospitals, and comforting the grieving at wakes.

As bishop, Maguire established the first youth ministry in the diocese, and launched outreach to black and Hispanic Catholics.   He revamped the annual Catholic Charities fund drive and increased the role of the laity in the diocese.

Joseph Garde, who was ordained a deacon by Maguire in 1991, said he never met anyone with more compassion.

" And he had a photographic memory," said Garde. " He had quite a  gift, but spirituality was number one. For the less fortunate and the sick he was always there."

Maguire, who played hockey and baseball in college, reportedly never missed a chance to toss a ball or swing a bat with young people he would meet.  The health, fitness and athletic center at Elms College in Chicopee was named for Maguire in 1993.

After Maguire retired he faced allegations that he had allowed clergy accused of sexually abusing children to continue to serve in the ministry.  After a civil suit brought by a clergy sex abuse victim was settled in 2012, Maguire issued a statement asking victims and their families for “forgiveness and understanding.”

Maguire, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, made his last public appearance in June 2013. Bishop Mitchell Rozanski, who was installed as head of the Springfield diocese last August, visited Maguire almost daily and said it was an honor to have known him.

" When ever I would visit any of the parishes, schools, or different institutions there would always be someone who would say please give our regards to Bishop Maguire," said Rozanski.  " It never failed where ever I went."

A funeral mass for Maguire will be held Monday, December 1 at St. Michael’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Springfield Diocese.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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