Gifts of the Spirit

Sr. Brigid McGuigan

Over the course of her long life, Sr. Brigid McGuigan’s faith and spirituality influenced thousands of Catholics and non-religious people around the State of California, the United States and the world — but perhaps none knew her better than Fr. Bill Kerze.

McGuigan, a member of the Religious Sisters of Charity, first met Kerze while ministering at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in East Hollywood in the 1970s and ‘80s. Years later, the two once again had the opportunity to work together at Our Lady of Malibu, where McGuigan served as Pastoral Associate for nearly two decades, and where Kerze serves as pastor.

On Aug. 17, McGuigan died at the age of 91. This weekend, The Malibu Times sat down with Kerze to discuss the life and legacy of Sr. Brigid.

“Here in this parish, her legacy is people,” Kerze described.

“Let me put it this way — on Sunday, at Mass, I look out and I see men, women, mothers, fathers and children, and young adults, and I would say, at least a quarter of the people I see out there have grown spiritually in a significant way because of her, and that’s her legacy — people — and the impact she had on people’s lives,” he continued. “She did put together a good process, and left some really sound resources for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and I think it’s really wonderful, but I think the important thing is how she touched people.”

McGuigan, whose ministry at Our Lady of Malibu included developing and running the RCIA program, served for decades as a teacher, campus minister, and consultant for churches and religious communities.

“She was a person who always worked herself out of a job,” Kerze laughed, “in terms of developing leadership.” In fact, McGuigan was instrumental in developing the RCIA program at Our Lady of Malibu, but made sure to train a successor and several catechists to learn the ins and outs of the program. According to Kerze, though, McGuigan’s impact and lasting legacy stretch far beyond the programs she instated at Our Lady of Malibu.

“I would say, not simply for the archdiocese of Los Angeles, but for the State of California, part of her legacy will be a significant number of parish communities that are healthy and are carrying out their missions well,” Kerze said. “She has, over the years, had an impact — I’d say conservatively, she’s had a significant impact on the lives of 750 pastors. That has made them better pastors and made their communities function well.”

Originally from County Derry, Northern Ireland, McGuigan came to the United States as part of a program instituted by Cardinal James Frances McIntyre, Kerze described. McIntyre was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1948 to 1970.

“She came out in the 1950s — ‘58,” Kerze described. “Basically, what was happening was, LA was growing explosively. Cardinal McIntyre was basically establishing a new parish almost every week. He also believed in education, so came schools.”

McIntyre recruited religious sisters from Ireland who could teach and minister to the elderly, and that included McGuigan. She served the archdiocese for over 50 years.

That ministry included marriage counseling, career development and “a lot of stuff that just fell through the cracks,” Kerze said. A lot of that was working with people, day in and day out.

“I would say one of the big things people will miss is someone that they feel safe and comfortable with that they can sit down and talk with about what’s going on in their lives and come out smiling,” Kerze said. “She just had a wonderful, disarming quality about her.”