Father Tim McGee of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church was recently given an honor that is reserved for less than 10 percent of the clergy of any given diocese, when he was given the title of monsignor.
The title monsignor is an ecclesiastical honor for clergy in the Roman Catholic Church. Monsignor comes from the French word Mon Seigneur, which means my lord. In English, the title is most commonly abbreviated “Msgr.”
McGee, 58, found out that he would be honored with the title monsignor Dec. 15, when he was called to the office of Bishop Victor Balke, of the Crookston Diocese.
Monsignor Roger Grundhaus, a former resident of Thief River Falls, said McGee was made a chaplain to the holy father, which an honor bestowed by the pope following the recommendation by Bishop Balke.
“Father McGee was very instrumental in holding things together during the East Grand Forks flood and overseeing reconstruction,” Grundhaus said. “He’s been a very well liked pastor in Thief River Falls and he’s been very successful in his family faith nights and other pastoral initiatives he’s undertaken.”
A ceremony, commemorating McGee’s honor, will be held later this year.
A delayed decision
McGee was born and raised in Minot, N.D. Prior to being ordained, he worked as a funeral director in western North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. and East Grand Forks.
Growing up, McGee said he had an interest in religion and priesthood. “I grew up in the years prior to the Second Vatican Council, and I was never sure of myself learning Latin in those years,”
McGee held off on his childhood interest in religion and instead worked as a funeral director in western North Dakota, Grand Forks, N.D. and East Grand Forks.
McGee said he began to change his mind based on the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1962 to 1965.
“One of the outcomes was that Mass was to be celebrated in the language of the people,” McGee said. “So then, at the age of 34, the thought was still in my mind. I went back to school – to see if this was for me, if this is what God was calling met to – before I got too old to learn new things.”
In 1984, McGee enrolled at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis. He was ordained Dec. 19, 1987.
The title monsignor
McGee said the title monsignor is a form of address that is connected to appointments of certain ecclesiastical positions, which are mostly honorary. Priests receive the honor, which is bestowed directly by the holy father, in consultation with the local bishop.
In some countries, the title monsignor is the simple title that is used to address bishops. McGee said that is the case of Latin American countries, where bishops are addressed “Monsignor.”
“In English speaking countries, the title monsignor is generally reserved for priests so honored with the title,” McGee said.
McGee said there are three different classes of monsignor. In ascending order, the different classes of monsignor are: Chaplain to His Holiness; Honorary Prelates of his Holiness; and Apostolic Prothonotaries
McGee was bestowed with title of monsignor, chaplain to his holiness, which doesn’t really change his day to day duties. “Today, there are no duties directly related to the title,” McGee said. “There’s no raise in pay or salary related to the title.”
One area where there will be some change is the way McGee is dressed for sacred ceremonies. Now he will don the traditional clothing of a monsignor who is a chaplain to his holiness. This includes a purple-trimmed black cassock with purple buttons and a purple sash. Traditional attire for priests includes a black cassock with black trim and black buttons.
Like most promotions, honorary or material, McGee had to meet certain criteria in serving the diocese to receive the honor. He was chosen in part because of his 19-year commitment to the diocese, serving as pastor for 19 years at Sacred Heart Church in East Grand Forks from (1987-2001) and St. Bernard’s Church in Thief River Falls (2001-present).
McGee was also involved with flood recovery in East Grand Forks following the 1997 flood, which included demolition and the $13 million reconstruction of Sacred Heart School. McGee said he will continue to serve at St. Bernard’s Church in Thief River Falls, noting: “As far as I know, this is not a stepping stone to something else.” Thief River Falls Times