Franciscan Father Aubrey McNeil, known for his warmth and humor, dies

ANDERSON—Franciscan Father Aubrey McNeil, parochial vicar of St. Mary of the Angels Church, died Dec. 5 in Massachusetts. He was 72.

A memorial Mass will be offered on Dec. 15 at St. Mary of the Angels. Father Aubrey was born the second of four children on Feb. 16, 1945, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.

He was a graduate of St. Joseph Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., a registered nursing degree in advanced nursing from Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, Mich., and a master’s in divinity from Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. He was ordained a priest in 1985.

His assignments included co-pastor of St. Anthony Church, Camden, N.J.; associate pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York, N.Y.; pastor of Holy Cross Church, Bronx, N.Y.; formation director of Kakoba Friary, in Mbarara, Uganda, and formation director of Holy Cross Friary, Bronx, N.Y.

The Miscellany archives, Franciscan Father Aubrey McNeil.

In the Diocese of Charleston, he served as pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church from Aug. 1, 2005, until Aug. 14, 2017, when he became parochial vicar. In Father Aubrey’s years there, membership increased to over 400 families and he oversaw the construction and completion of a larger church and hall.

The Franciscan friar was known as a warm, funny, inviting and deeply caring person. Father Aubrey said his time as a physical healer prepared him for moving into the spiritual side of healing.

“True healing is in the sacraments in our tradition, and I felt strength in that healing ministry developed in the physical healing performed as a nurse,” he said in earlier interviews. “Patients responded well to me.”

In each of the churches he served, whether in New York, New Jersey or South Carolina, the parishes were multi-ethnic. He said that richness in diversity and the growth of the parishes spilled into his life as well.

“Our philosophy is to empower the people — ask them to do things that they can do but maybe never thought they could do,” he said.

In the same way, Father Aubrey said God empowered him and gave him richness in his ministry.