1925 – 2008 (March 6)
Thomas J. McLaughlin was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 15, 1925 to Charlotte and William McLaughlin. When he was a teenager, the family moved to San Diego where Tom was introduced to the Augustinians, who taught him at St. Augustine High School.In the second semester of his senior year at St. Augustine’s, Tom entered the Army Air Corps, and was commissioned a lieutenant in 1943. He served as navigator in twenty-five flight missions over Germany. On February 27, 1945 Tom’s plane was shot down over Germany and he became a prisoner of war until he was liberated on April 29th of the same year. His family and friends believed that Tom had died in the war, and no communication indicated otherwise. After the war was over, Tom returned to San Diego, bringing shock and elation. It was from this point that Tom received the nickname Spook, as if others had seen a ghost.
As soon as he returned, he entered the Province, professed vows on September 10, 1947, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1953. His humility would cause him to evaluate his ministry as thrilling for him, but only ordinary for the people whom he served. That assessment would be challenged by the thousands of students he taught and those he served in parochial ministry. He was an excellent science and religion teacher to the students of Villanova Prep in Ojai and St. Augustine High School in San Diego. He thought that he would be a high school teacher all of his religious life, until he was asked to be the Director of Formation for Augustinian students in 1971.
Four years later he entered upon parish ministry, and served most of his remaining years ministering at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ojai, St. Patrick’s in San Diego, and Our Lady of Grace Church in Castro Valley, California. In all three parishes he basked in the reciprocal love of grateful parishioners whose admiration helped them easily forgive Fr. Tom’s signature bluntness or his inability to remember names.
In the last few years of his priesthood, he was the go-to person for any Augustinian parish whose priest needed a respite from the job. His love for his ministry was only surpassed by his love for the Augustinian community. Among his final words were repeated statements about how he will miss community life and how he loved ministering.