HANNIBAL | Father Mike Quinn will celebrate 50 years of ministry in June, and he made the difficult decision to retire in 2021 from service that took him to communities like St. Louis, Hobart, Okla. and Columbia before God called him to Hannibal to lead Holy Family Catholic Church in 1998.
Quinn recalled a happy childhood growing up the third oldest of seven children, sharing a four-room tar paper shack near a pond — where he joined his siblings and cousins catching tadpoles and crawdads. During a visit in his college years, the home later “looked like a miniature” compared to how spacious it seemed in his childhood years. His parents, Ambrose and Pauline, installed an unwavering Catholic faith and work ethic, providing the foundation for a life dedicated to sharing the word of God and reaching out to people in communities and parishes like Holy Family Catholic Church and School.
“I grew up in a very happy environment. My parents were very devout Catholic Christians — we always prayed before every meal —in fact, we ate together at all meals,” Quinn said.
Each child kneeled down to pray the Rosary before bedtime. His parents took turns each morning so one parent could attend Mass before the children awoke. Quinn recalled fondly how his mother was “strong in seeing the positive in one another,” and his father was “always big on 'you never, ever lie.'” The Quinn family enjoyed many Sundays at his grandparents' home. The family moved from the small house to a home with five bedrooms, and in 1967, his parents purchased a country home built around 1900.
By that time, his oldest brother entered the priesthood, and his oldest sister joined the convent, joining the Third Order of St. Francis out of Maryville — the nuns who supplied St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Hannibal. Quinn spent his high school years studying at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, and he was a member of the second graduating class.
“Growing up, relatives were good friends, but outside the family, some of my best friends were formed when I went to the seminary in Hannibal,” Quinn said.
When he graduated, Quinn studied in St. Louis for eight years at Concordia College, St. Louis University's Divinity School and Eden Theological Seminary. Each summer, he would return to Monroe City to work in the family hayfield or load trucks at his father's business, Quinn Farm Supply. One summer, he decided to stay in St. Louis with other seminarians and a group of girls from Webster University to give back to children living in the Pruitt-Igoe high-rise apartments.
Each day, “hundreds and hundreds of kids” would come from the high-rise to participate in the recreation ministry — with activities like sports “It was sponsored through the church, but we weren't out to convert the kids, we were just out to help them during the summer because they didn't have any parental oversight,” Quinn said, adding one or both of the children's parents were working throughout the day.
Another summer, Quinn worked in Hobart, Okla. to rehabilitate a neighborhood recreational center, ministering with Bible study, Vacation Bible School and recreation activities to area youth.
Quinn was ordained as a priest by Bishop Michael McAuliffe on June 6, 1970, in Monroe City, and he was excited about changes like translating the Mass into English.
“It was just an exciting time to be a priest,” Quinn said, adding he loved the chance to serve at Immaculate Conception Catholic Parish in Jefferson City, taking an active role in youth ministries for students in grade school through high school.
Two years later, McAuliffe asked him to teach at Helias Catholic High School in Jefferson City. He prayed on this new step, and found a rewarding experience as he taught during the school year and earned his master's degree in theology during summer study.
“I always had a love for the Eucharist for the Mass, and so we taught a lot around each student to love the Eucharist, and it was just a good experience of five years,” Quinn said, adding that he had dreamed of serving as priest at the University of Missouri's Newman Center before he was ordained a priest.
After he went through a rigorous interview process, Quinn enjoyed a “wonderful, wonderful experience from beginning to end,” and Quinn served from 1977-1998. He was active with student ministries and retreats, and he loved the musically-rich and “prayerful” Masses. Quinn also dove into social justice work, joining fellow parish members to start the Catholic Worker Houses to provide food and lodging for homeless men and women.
“That was my dream, and I got to be there for 21 years,” Quinn said.
God had a new calling for Quinn in 1998 when Bishop John Gaydos asked him if he'd like to serve at Holy Family Church and School. At first, it was difficult to leave people who had become like family in Columbia, but Quinn soon found that level of closeness and chances to engage in new ministries with his new family.
“This is where God wanted me to be all along. God had a hand on my shoulder — I never noticed it until later on,” Quinn said, Quinn's decision to retire in June of 2021 hasn't been easy because he has forged so many connections and friends at Holy Family and throughout the community. Parish Secretary Patty Miller shared her thoughts on the impact Quinn has made over the years.
“It has been my privilege and honor to work with such a compassionate, caring and humble priest for the past 22 years. Father Mike has reached out to so many people, not just in the Catholic community here in Hannibal, but to people of all faiths, here, and really anywhere God has planted him. He has a true love for the poor, those who are in need of care, the forgotten. I've heard more than once, 'Is there any way that we can help…' and we did help, because he knew that is what Jesus asks of all of us,” Miller said.
She said Quinn's compassion and desire to follow Jesus' example is apparent whenever he meets someone.
“He has an innate ability to connect with people whether it is just a kind word, spiritual guidance, or to be there as a friend would be, by your side and offering encouragement. I always say, 'If you ever met him, you would never forget him' — because in some way he will have touched your heart with his caring ways,” Miller said.
Sister Betty Uchytil, SSND, principal of Holy Family School, said it has been “wonderful” working with Quinn.
“I have worked with Father Mike Quinn for the five years I have been the principal of Holy Family School. I have admired Father Mike's pastoral presence and light-hearted humor (Irish humor) in school and parish,” Uchytil said.
“Father Mike is a very positive person and always leads with his heart. The faculty, staff and students love his children's liturgies that we participated in each week during the school year. He would create his homilies to touch the students' understanding of scripture so they would get an important message on how to live as God would want them to,” Uchytil said.
Quinn said he loves the chance to share the “such a treasure” of Mass every day, and he cherishes when Holy Family School students help lead the service on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce honored Quinn in 2019 with the Pacesetter Award for his volunteer efforts throughout the area.
“So many people have touched my life, too, and it's been neat being involved in the community, whether it's AVENUES or the Hannibal Free Clinic — because I'm on the boards of both of those groups, and I really enjoy those kinds of experiences,” Quinn said.