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A baseball-playing kid from Iowa who became a missionary bishop at Vatican II

Vincent McCauley
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Servant of God Vincent Joseph McCauley was respected for his work with the Holy Cross fathers in Africa.

Vincent Joseph McCauley was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on March 8, 1906. His dad, Charles, worked as an installer for the telephone company and his mom stayed home taking care of the six kids, of whom Vincent was the oldest. Vincent’s parents were active and devout Catholics; Dad was a member of the Knights of Columbus, and Mom was active in the Rosary Altar Guild and parish prayer groups. The McCauley children grew up knowing what it meant to be Catholic.

During the fall of 1924, during Vincent’s first semester at Creighton College, members of the Congregation of Holy Cross came to St. Francis Xavier Church to conduct a parish mission. Vincent, who was 18 at the time, had a life-changing experience. The mission sparked within him a call to the priesthood.

His family was stunned. He had never expressed an interest in a religious life. But he wrote to the vocation director that a calling to the priesthood “has been the aim of my life for many years. Trusting that God will it, my only desire now is a favorable reply from you.”

Vincent McCauley did, in fact, receive a “favorable reply” and on July 1, 1925, entered the novitiate. He professed his first vows one year later and took his perpetual vows on July 2, 1929. He then was sent off to Foreign Missionary training in Washington, D.C. After completing his training there, he had one more stop to make. The date was June 24, 1934; he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John Noll at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The Great Depression of the 1930s left its boot-heel on many a person in America. It even affected missionaries. Father Vincent was trained in missionary work, but the depression had left the Holy Cross Order short on funds. Instead of going overseas, Father Vincent was assigned to the faculty at the congregation’s seminary in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He would remain there for the next two years.

Then in 1936 Father Vincent was sent to East Bengal (now Bangladesh) to be the rector of a minor seminary. During his time there he learned much about the indigenous people. In 1944, because of poor health, he had to return to the United States. He would spend the next 14 years working in Washington, D.C. It was during this time that he began treatments at the Mayo Clinic for skin cancer, an affliction he had been battling most of his adult life.  But his experiences in Bengal had prepared him for the mission work that would come his way in East Africa.

In early 1958, Father McCauley and Father Arnold Fell were sent to Uganda to check on establishing a community mission under the Holy Cross umbrella. Bishop Jean Ortiz of Mbarra wanted the “White Fathers” to establish a new diocese in West Uganda. McCauley wrote, “Unless something changes our impression, this is a great opportunity for Holy Cross.”  

They submitted a very favorable report. The job was entrusted to Father McCauley. He arrived back in Uganda on November 4, 1958. It took only three years for Father McCauley to establish schools and churches in the region. The Holy Cross Order, under the guidance of the priest from Iowa, was about to open a new Catholic Diocese in Fort Portal, Uganda.

Having been the effective and inspiring guiding force in establishing the new Diocese of Fort Portal, Father Vincent was consecrated its first bishop on May 18, 1961.

Bishop McCauley immediately set out to organize and promote the Catholic Church in East Africa. His work was so notable that he was invited to be present at the Second Vatican Council. His opinions on missionary work in Africa, from finances and forming catechists to overcoming conflict among different tribes in the area were highly regarded by the Council.

The baseball-playing priest from Iowa did all these things while having to endure more than 50 surgeries for his chronic skin cancer. In 1976 he had open heart surgery, having a plastic aorta placed into his heart. Then in 1982, suffering from lung cancer, he agreed to another surgery. He died during the operation. The date was November 1, 1982, the Feast of All Saints. Now he would become a part of their team.

In 2006 Bishop Vincent J. McCauley was declared a Servant of God and his cause is now before the Congregation of Saints in Rome.

We ask Servant of God Vincent J. McCauley to pray for us.

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