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Catholic Life Features Ministry

Story of a short priesthood, Father Peter McGowan

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Among the remains that were removed from Christ the King Seminary in early August were those of Father Peter McGowan, who served the priesthood a mere 37 days.

The 24-year-old Buffalo native was ordained in a conference room at Sister’s Hospital in Buffalo while battling terminal cancer. Bishop James McNulty, who conducted the ordination, allowed the young man special dispensation to be ordained a year early due to his illness.

During his 37 days as a priest, Father McGowan concelebrated 37 Masses. Among his main celebrants were four bishops – McNulty, Pius Benincasa, Stanislaus Brzana, Eustace Smith of Lebanon, and one future bishop – Father Donald Trautman. He also heard the confessions of priests and seminarians, blessed hundreds of hospital workers, and baptized his nephew Michel Francis Liddell. One of the Sisters of Charity who staffed the hospital, mentioned at the time of his death, that Father McGowan led one hospital employee to return to the Church after having a talk with him.

Known as a top student and athlete in school, his classmates at St. John Vianney Seminary said he taught them the meaning of priesthood. He once told his first-grade teacher at St. Joseph School, that not only did he want to be a priest, he wanted to be pope.

Robert Armbruster, a reporter for the diocesan paper, The Magnificat, became so impressed by Father McGowan that he wrote an inspirational biography on him titled, “So Little Time, So Many Graces.”

He died July 5, 1965, and became the second person buried at St. John Vianney Seminary, later Christ the King. His body was moved to Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna.

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