1910 – 1973 (February 13)
Robert E. McGrath was born in Oxnard, California on June 24, 1910. His family was prominent in ranching and his uncle was among those instrumental in the foundation of Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, CA. Father McGrath claimed to have been the second student enrolled in that institution from which he graduated in 1928. He was the first student from the school to be enrolled in the Augustinian Novitiate in New Hamburg, N.Y., and the first to be ordained to the priesthood. He graduated from Villanova College in 1933 and completed his theological studies at Augustinian College in Washington, DC. He was ordained in Los Angeles on June 6, 1936.
Father McGrath’s first assignment was to the Mission Band with the Villanova Monastery, Villanova, as his home base. From 1943 until 1945 he taught theology at Villanova. At the end of World War II, he was given his long-promised obedience as associate pastor of Our Mother of Good Counsel Church in Hollywood. In 1951 he was assigned to his alma mater in Ojai and remained there until 1964, serving in many business roles as well as teaching American history, speech, civics, religion, and typing.
He was then re-assigned to Our Mother of Good Counsel Church until 1968 when ill health forced him to resign as prior of the community and curtail his activities. He was then assigned to Casa Adolfo Camarillo serving as the first resident prior of that formation community. He oversaw the beautification of the Camarillo Ranch House which had been proclaimed a State Historic Landmark. Father McGrath died on February 13, 1973 while working at his desk. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, San Diego, CA.
Father McGrath once wrote the following words concerning his high school alma mater, but which apply much more widely, and which reveal a good deal about the author, as well.
“In the life of everyone there are several great loves, such as the love of God, the love of father and mother, the love of country. Then there is the love that one has for his own school, his alma mater, or foster mother. Like all love it does not come suddenly — it comes only with the maturity of years, when the restlessness, of youth has been tempered by the experience of years. Only then, can we look back and truly estimate the value of the lessons taught and the helpful hands that lifted us along the way. Only then, can we recall with love and benediction the memory of those who, under God, helped to form in its sons and daughters the ideals that embody the true follower of Christ and the Christian gentlemen, and lady. May we always prove by our daily lives that we are worth so noble a heritage…”