The Rev. Edward F. McNally, a Roman Catholic priest who later became executive director of the Franciscan Center, died Saturday of lymphoma at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The Mount Washington resident was 46.
"Ed had volunteered here when he was a seminarian at St. Mary's. Afterward, he saw an ad in the paper for executive director of the Franciscan Center and applied," said Sister Ellen Carr, former interim director of the center and now a member of its board.
"I hired him and felt totally comfortable turning over the reins to him," said Sister Ellen. "He had such wisdom and knowledge that he brought to his work at the center. He was at it all of the time. He was a real advocate and his death is such a tremendous loss."
Edward Francis McNally was born and raised in Manlius, N.Y., where he graduated in 1984 from Fayetteville-Manlius High School.
"Ed was born with the worst poker hand that God could have given him. He was premature and legally blind but it gave him strength and he accomplished much in his life," said a brother, Richard J. McNally Jr. of Valley Falls, N.Y.
Mr. McNally earned a bachelor's degree in 1988 in history and religious studies from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y.
He came to Baltimore to study and after earning a master's degree in divinity and theological studies from St. Mary's Seminary and University in 1995, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Syracuse.
He was an associate priest at St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church in North Syracuse when he left in 1995 to become chaplain and director of the Newman Center at the State University of New York at Oswego.
While at Oswego, he earned a master's degree in business management in 2005, taught comparative religion and coached the university's crew team.
Mr. McNally returned to Baltimore in 2005 and earned his law degree in 2008 from the University of Baltimore Law School.
He clerked for Baltimore Circuit Judge Timothy J. Doory and was a member of the Maryland Bar Association and the Thomas More Society, but it was his time at the Franciscan Center in the 100 block of W. 23rd St. that came to define his life's work.
The center provides emergency outreach services and bags of groceries or hot lunches, and also helps people with legal problems and securing birth certificates. It also provides counseling services and helps those dealing with electricity turn-off notices, evictions, transportation, flu shots, dental care and prescription drugs.
Mr. McNally, who became executive director in 2010, was a ubiquitous presence at the center, where he easily mingled with those who came for assistance. He'd sit in the lunchroom and share a meal with them or stop them in the hallway for a chat.
"The first word that comes to mind is that Ed was passionate about the work of the center. He loved it. He wanted to help people and it was a great outlet," said Christian J. Metzger, who succeeded Mr. McNally as executive director.
"He took a lot of pride in it and enjoyed walking into the lunchroom to talk to the clients. It takes a strong person to walk around such poverty, but he looked upon it as an opportunity," said Mr. Metzger. "It was always a pleasure working with him."
He said that one of Mr. McNally's No. 1 projects was the Healthy Food Initiative and food pantry.
"He was the catalyst for that and it is now one of our top programs," said Mr. Metzger. Another program that the two men worked on was a program that provided suits for men applying for jobs.
"He even came up with the name 'Attire 4 Hire,' which he had registered," said Mr. Metzger.
In a 2010 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Mr. McNally explained how he confronted the mission of the center.
"We operate as a community effort. We get donations and help — time, talent and treasure — from parishes, high schools, universities, foundations and individuals," he said.
Sister Ellen said: "He did a lot of networking and if you were a friend of Ed, you were very vulnerable. He'd have you drawn in and you'd soon be a part of it."
Mr. McNally, who was diagnosed in July 2011 with the cancer that eventually claimed his life, stepped down as the center's executive director on a medical leave earlier this year.
Mr. McNally offered his last Mass at the time of his mother's death in 2008. Mr. McNally had not formally resigned the priesthood but was on official leave, said the Rev. Timothy Elmer, chancellor of the Diocese of Syracuse.
Mr. McNally enjoyed reading and traveling.
"He was vitally interested in social justice issues and was very politically oriented," said his partner of a year and a half, Jennifer Maurer of Mount Washington, who is a clinical social worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"He was also into fitness and cycling, and it wasn't uncommon for him to ride 20 or 30 miles at a time," said Ms. Maurer.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church, North Charles and 29th streets.
In addition to his brother and partner, Mr. McNally is survived by his father, Richard J. McNally Sr. of Syracuse; another brother, Adam McNally of Fairport, N.Y.; five sisters, Margaret Mahon of Oswego, N.Y., Eileen McNally of Chester, N.J., Jeanne Keller of DeWitt, N.Y., Katherine Hannah of Manasquan, N.J., and Virginia Reznik of Orange, N.J.; and many nieces and nephews.