By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Religious sisters who are also aunts can have a lot of influence, especially those who pray for nieces and nephews to have vocations. Redemptorist Father Richard M. Quinn, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination, can attest to that.
“My aunt, Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Anne Edward Quinn, prayed that all of her nieces and nephews would become priests or nuns. She got four out of six, which is pretty good!” he said. His sister, Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Mary Patricia (Pat) Quinn, celebrated the 50th anniversary of her profession in 2010. Two first cousins, Edward Quinn and Richard Quinn (now deceased), became Maryknoll priests.
Richard Maurice Quinn was born in 1937, one of three children of Richard and Josephine Quinn. He grew up two blocks west of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, commonly known as Redemptorist, a neighborhood his pipefitter (Local 533) dad had lived in and loved since moving there in 1917. (His son Frank and two grandsons followed the same career path as members of Local 533.)
Redemptorist Fathers had built a monastery on Hunter Road, now Linwood, at Broadway, just south of the Westport Road, the main thoroughfare between Kansas City and Westport, back in 1878. The Redemptorists moved their preparatory college and novitiate there from Chatawa, Miss., in 1879. Mass was said in the monastery chapel from 1878-1895 for the growing neighborhood.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish was canonically established in 1888. In 1894, a parish church was built on the site, but was quickly outgrown, and in May 1912, the French-Gothic church in use today was solemnly dedicated.
The Redemptorist seminary and preparatory college was moved to Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis, in July, 1890, and then in 1960 to Oconomowoc, Wis.
With his brother Frank and sister Pat, Dick attended Redemptorist Grade School and became acquainted with the Redemptorist priests. He began a lifelong readership of Liguorian Magazine. The magazine was inaugurated in March 1913 by five Redemptorist priests. The name Liguorian honors St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, a talented, prolific writer of spirituality, and founder of the Redemptorists.
When he was 13, Dick left home to attend high school at St. Joseph’s minor Seminary and College in Kirkwood.
“I knew I had to go to high school somewhere, and decided that the seminary would be the best place for me. It was simple and serene there. God had already prepared a path, by instilling in me a love for the Liguorian,” he recalled.
After four years of high school and two of college at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College, followed by his novitiate at St. Clement’s College in DeSoto, Mo., Dick professed first vows as a Redemptorist on Aug. 2, 1957, the feast of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori. Dick completed his formation at Immaculate Conception Major Seminary in Oconomowoc. He was ordained a priest in the seminary’s chapel on Dec. 27, 1962, the 50th anniversary of the opening of Redemptorist Church in Kansas City. Father Quinn said his first Mass at Redemptorist on Dec. 30, 1962.
He recalled the joy with which his family and friends greeted his ordination and first Mass. “They were joyful, encouraging … all adjectives of a positive nature! There were tears from boys I’d gone to grade school with.”
He served a year of pastoral internship at St. Alphonsus Church in St. Louis before his first assignment — Holy Name Parish, Omaha. Over the years Father Quinn served in parishes around the Denver Redemptorist Province — Holy Name (twice, once as associate, once as pastor); St. Alphonsus Parish, Minneapolis, Minn., and Grand Rapids, Mich. (three times as pastor); Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Parish, Kansas City; Holy Redeemer Parish, Detroit (pastor); Sacred Heart Parish, Seattle (pastor) and St. Thomas Parish in Couer d’Alene, Idaho (pastor).
He also served as chaplain to five city police departments before and during military service in the U.S.: Detroit, Omaha, Colorado Springs and at the Idaho State Police Barracks in Coeur d’Alene.
His brother Frank had served as a Marine in Vietnam and, after 25 years in parish service, Father Quinn realized his long-standing dream of serving as a military chaplain. “Catholic priests were in short supply in the military,” Father Quinn said, so he volunteered. His application was accepted one week before he would have passed the age limit. He was 49 years old.
“I was told that if I volunteered for a 3-year tour, I would be turned down, but they’d accept me if I volunteered for five years. I said ‘OK,’ and made it 6 ½ years.”
Father Quinn’s military service spanned the years 1988-94, including the First Gulf War in 1990-91. He served a tour of duty at Fort Carson, near Colorado Springs, a tour at the US Army Garrison in Mannheim, Germany, and ended his volunteer military service at Fort Polk, near Leesville, Vernon Parish, La.
“I was in the army longer than I was in the minor seminary,” he recalled with a grin. “Six and a half happy years, just the right amount of service.”
He didn’t spend all his time in Mannheim in the garrison. He made a military pilgrimage to Lourdes, “with 27,000 other soldiers.” He toured St. Petersburg (Leningrad) and Moscow in a spirit of peace and reconciliation and was impressed by the sight of Germans and Russians “getting along.” He traveled to Spain and to Strasbourg, France; visited the famous German spa at Baden-Baden, “but not the casinos;” he visited Rome, Dublin and Belfast and, as part of his professional development, toured significant World War II battlegrounds.
One of the reasons he volunteered for service as a military chaplain is what he calls the “underlying charism” of the Redemptorist community: to boldly defend the rights of Christ and His people. “We will fight,” he said, “for the rights of the immigrant, the poor, the weak — Christ’s people everywhere.”
Father Quinn explained that St. Alphonsus Liguori was a civil lawyer before becoming a priest. He spent his first years as a priest working and living with the homeless and marginalized youth of Naples, encouraging them and fighting for their rights through his sermons. He also brought many Neapolitans back to the faith through those sermons.
Father Quinn returned to Kansas City in 1994, serving at Redemptorist Parish and, from August 1994 – December 1996, as chaplain to the Kansas City Police Dept. He built a pastoral relationship with police officers and their families.
“I would go to roll calls, ride with officers in the patrol cars and generally make myself available across religious lines, working to assist anyone dealing with religious realities,” which might include the possibility of having to shoot to kill, having a buddy killed in the line of duty, dealing with the homeless, drug addicts, drunken drivers or domestic violence.
During those two years, Father Quinn became friends with Msgr. William Blacet, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish since 1992. “I was baptized at Our Lady of Good Counsel,” Father Quinn said, “so there was a connection. He’s a good priest, a good man and a good friend.”
He was assigned to pastor St. Alphonsus Parish in Grand Rapids for the third time in the late 1990s.
His eyesight began to bother him and, by 2007, he could no longer comfortably read the print in the Lectionary at Mass, especially for special Masses, like weddings. He stopped driving and, on July 25, 2007, retired from active ministry and returned to Kansas City. Of all the cities Father Quinn has lived in, Coeur d’Alene is the best place to visit, but Kansas City is the best place to retire to, he said.
“I like to think that I’m not busy,” he said, “but am occupied with priestly concerns and pastoral interests. I take daily Masses, since I know the Mass by heart, and I serve as a volunteer chaplain at Truman Medical Center. Weddings still move me, and I like to take on catechetical work.
“I try not to let my eyes bother me, take things as they come. If I can get someone to drive me some place, that is good, and if not, that’s OK too.” He walks sure-footedly along the familiar aisles of Redemptorist Church and the halls of the priest’s residence.
Father Quinn enjoys attending Redemptorist Grade School alumni meetings.
“We still argue who had the best football team in the fourth grade! It’s good to stay in touch.”
He hopes to spend the next years at Redemptorist, helping out and celebrating those around him. “I have lots of family, nieces, nephews, my grade school classmates … all Redemptorist trained. And this parish is wonderful! In May, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the church. I concelebrated with the other priests and Bishop Finn at the anniversary Mass. We’ve got Redemptorist Social Services and the senior center in the old convent. Cristo Rey High School is in the old high school building. It’s great to be in this milieu!”
Of the 21 young men in the ordination class of 1962, six are still priests. Ten members of his class have died, and five chose to live as laymen.
An anniversary Mass and reception for Father Quinn was held Dec. 30, the 50th anniversary of his first Mass, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Church.
Father Quinn looked back on his 50 years as a Redemptorist priest with a smile.
“It’s been more enjoyable and happier than I could ever have imagined. I want to reach out to others and share it. If any young man reading this is thinking about the priesthood, come on down, I’d like to talk to you!”
Back straight as when he served in the army, Father Quinn paced the hallway to the door of the priest’s house, opened the door and let in the late afternoon light.
“The Lord has blessed me,” he said. “Happy childhood, happiness as a priest, happiness in the army and happiness now. Yes, He has blessed me and that’s no exaggeration!”