By Karina Fabian
Dan McGrath began his ministry at Holy Spirit Parish by arranging folding chairs. Now, as deacon and parish administrator, he’s arranging everything from Mass schedules to marriages.
Deacon McGrath grew up in Butte and for 20 years managed the family restaurant, Terri’s, with his wife Carol. They have two children, Jared McGrath and Amanda Ashcroft, both married; and two grandchildren, Katie and Connor Ashcroft.
The McGraths joined Holy Spirit Parish when it was just a small group holding Masses at the Home Atherton Fire Hall. “Father Joe Pat Sullivan asked us to ‘come out and check things out.’ I remember going to church at the fire hall the first time, and having to set up and put away tables and chairs. I remember telling Father Jo Pat, ‘This is the dumbest thing we’ve ever done. Why would anyone give up their nice comfortable pew at St. Ann’s?’ But after a few times we, along with a lot of other folks, were captured by the community spirit that is still present today,” Deacon McGrath said.
It was the community, he said, that recognized and encouraged his call to the diaconate. Father Jim Burns encouraged him to enroll in the program, and in 1992, he was ordained and assigned to Holy Spirit Parish.
Deacon McGrath enjoys working with young people. In 1987, he and his wife Carol became involved with youth ministry though the confirmation program, and eventually ended up coordinating the city-wide youth program that still exists. So, in 1994, he was glad to take a position as director of youth ministry for the diocese, even though it meant driving up to Helena four or five times a week.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other parishes and serve on a national and regional youth ministry board. It also gave me an opportunity to see how other parishes celebrated the goodness of community,” he said.
Then, in 2002, Bishop Robert C. Morlino asked him to follow Sister Sharon Smith as pastoral administrator of Holy Spirit Parish. Although he only had a couple of days to consider it, accepting was an easy decision. He had had wonderful experiences working with Father Burns and Sister Smith, and has found the community as giving to him now as ever before. “In my six years as pastoral administrator, I can honestly say no one has ever said ‘no’ to anything I’ve asked,” he said.
Deacon McGrath and Carol regularly record their memories in stories and photos. “These have helped us see the wonderful grace and goodness of our parish family in the everyday relationship of parish life. I truly enjoy my position at Holy Spirit. Our wonderful parish life on Sunday and all the other days of the week is a real tribute to the dedication and love everyone has for our community. I enjoy working with the pastoral council on new ways to be church together. Our parish bulletin website and newsletter have been wonderful and unique signatures for our parish community.”
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 24, No. 6, June 20, 2008.