Members of the St. Michael Parish community gathered recently at St. Joseph Church in Gardiner to honor Clarence McKay for his service to the church community.

In recognition of his many years of service, Pope Francis bestowed an apostolic blessing on McKay, which was read by Deacon Jeffrey Lewis and presented to McKay during the Mass, according to a news release from the Diocese of Portland.

Sister Rita-Mae Bissonnette, chancellor of the diocese, also read a letter of appreciation from Bishop Robert Deeley. McKay shared in the second reading.

McKay and his wife, Irene, celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on Sept. 20. They have 16 children. At the end of the Mass, the entire congregation, led by the Rev. Morin, joined in a blessing for the couple, according to the release. Following the Mass, a dinner catered by the Knights of Columbus was offered in McKay’s honor.

Born in 1922, McKay became an altar server at St. Joseph after he made his first communion and confirmation, according to the diocese.

In 1943, he was drafted into the Army during World War II and served as an assistant to the Catholic chaplain during the June 1944 Battle of Saipan in the central Pacific.

When he returned home, he resumed his parish ministry, serving as a pastoral associate to the Rev. Michael McDonald and the Rev. Clement Thibodeau. Thibodeau, retired and living in Caribou, traveled to Gardiner to concelebrate the Mass honoring McKay.

McKay also served as chairman of the St. Joseph Liturgical Renovation Committee, which oversaw church renovations following the Second Vatican Council. He chaired the St. Joseph Worship and Spirituality Commission and served for many years on the St. Joseph Pastoral Council and, later, the St. Michael Pastoral Council. He has prepared the intercessions for the prayers of the faithful for the past 40 years and has served as a reader at Mass for nearly 50 years.

In addition to serving the parish community, McKay also served as diocesan communications director, appointed by Bishop Peter Gerety (now archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Newark) in 1969. He held the position until 1984 and continued assisting on a part-time basis until 2004. Many of the local photographs seen in the former diocesan newspaper Church World were McKay’s work. Following his retirement, he was appointed by Bishop Joseph Gerry to the Diocesan Pastoral Council.

In addition to his church service, McKay also served the state of Maine as press secretary to Gov. Burton Cross, promotion director for what is now the Maine Office of Tourism and project director for the Maine pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal.

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