FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Father Francis McGuigan, a spiritual leader to many and perhaps the most public face of the Catholic Church in Fairbanks, died Saturday after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was 80.
McGuigan, who has served the church throughout his life, was known widely for his annual energetic effort at fund-raising for Catholic Schools of Fairbanks. The Fairbanks Dioces operates Monroe Junior-Senior High School and Immaculate Conception School.
Community and church leaders mourned his passing, recalling a man of total dedication to people and education.
In interviews just days before his death, McGuigan talked about his long career as a priest.
''It's been a good career, a happy one, especially working with young people in the public and private schools,'' he said from his bed.
Following his ordination in 1952, McGuigan taught high school in Oregon before being assigned to Fairbanks, where he served as principal of Monroe High School in the early 1960s.
Two short pastorships followed -- one in Washington state and another two-year stint at the newly built Sacred Heart Cathedral in Fairbanks. Here he resumed an educational role, spending 13 years as a counselor at old Main High School, West Valley High School and Tanana Middle School.
''The contact with the students, that was the most important part, and the teaching. I always taught when I was principal. I always kept my finger in the textbook,'' he said.
''They were all good years. There was never a bad one working with young people. It was really my happiest time.''
McGuigan grew up in a large, very religious, disciplined household in Spokane, Wash. His father was a placer miner and his mother raised seven boys and one girl. Schooled by Jesuits early in life, he decided at the age of 19 to become a priest.
Fairbanks Diocese Bishop Michael Kaniecki S.J. praised McGuigan for his lifetime dedication to youth and education and his unfailing obedience to follow the wishes of his superior.
''I'm glad to see a priest go to heaven, but I am going to miss him here,'' said Kaniecki. ''It's a severe loss for everyone.
''I'm sure the Lord will greet him with 'Well done good and faithful servant.'''
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.