Rev. Robert Edward McCall, 79, dies; was Catholic priest, leading Josephite


The Rev. Robert Edward McCall, a Roman Catholic priest and leading member of the Josephite order, died Wednesday at St. Joseph Manor in Baltimore of diabetes and cancer. He was 79.

Father McCall served as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools and universities, and he wrote several articles on theology and philosophy.

He was particularly active in the Josephites' evangelization efforts.

Father McCall was born in Westfield, Mass., and attended primary and secondary schools in and near the town.

In 1938, he went to Epiphany Apostolic College in Newburgh, N.Y., to begin his studies with the Josephites.

Founded in England in 1864, the Josephites conducted their first ministries among freed slaves in the United States.

The order has since focused its efforts and attention on predominantly African-American communities.

This emphasis appealed to the young Father McCall, who believed that by working among America's politically and economically oppressed black population, he could do some good - and help counteract what he saw as the growing Marxist threat to the Catholic Church in America and Europe.

"Catholics were not exactly appreciated in those days, and he was sensitive to attacks made on the Church," said the Rev. Peter E. Hogan, a Baltimore Josephite and longtime friend of Father McCall's. "One of the places where he saw a means of overcoming this ... was to become a priest."

In 1940, he began his novitiate at Mary Immaculate Novitiate, also in Newburgh.

Afterward, Father McCall studied theology and philosophy at the Josephite Senior Academy at St. Joseph Seminary in Washington.

He was ordained in 1946 at Washington's Trinity College.

The following year, Father McCall earned a master's degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America in Washington. He then joined the St. Joseph faculty.

In 1949, Father McCall returned to Newburgh to teach English and Latin at Epiphany Apostolic College.

During his four years there, he also served as a school librarian.

In 1953, Father McCall returned to Washington, and in two years earned a Ph.D. from Catholic University.

While teaching at St. Joseph in the 1950s and 1960s, Father McCall held several administrative positions at Catholic University and was a member of the university's philosophy faculty in 1961 and 1962.

Father McCall also became active in civic affairs.

He took a leading role in defeating a plan to route Interstate 95 through Northeast Washington, a project that would have displaced thousands of people from their homes.

"He was a very spiritual man," said the Rev. John L.M. Filippelli, the rector of St. Joseph Seminary and a former student of Father McCall's.

"He lived very close to the Lord, but he was very engaging with people," he said.

In 1969, Father McCall was assigned to a parish in New Orleans, and his clerical focus shifted from teaching to ministry.

Ten years later, he was summoned to Baltimore to serve as an administrator and head of evangelization for the Josephite order.

In 1987, Father McCall was elected Josephite vicar general, the order's second-highest position. He held the post for four years.

Father McCall is survived by two brothers, Daniel F. McCall of Boston and Philip E. McCall of Springfield, Mass.; and two sisters, Dorothy Fournier of Windsor, Conn., and Barbara A. McCall of Middletown, Conn.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph Manor, 911 W. Lake Ave. Burial will take place at New Cathedral Cemetery.

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