MONSIGNOR PATRICK TRAINOR
Yesterday I noted the death on Saturday night of Monsignor Patrick Trainor at the age of 91 (see “When Irish Eyes are Closing”). I promised some more reflections when I had an opportunity to gather my thoughts. Monsignor Trainor like most of the priests who came from Ireland served many places in the rapidly burgeoning Church in Florida in the late ’40′s, ’50′s and ’60′s. This morning a woman came up to me at Light of Christ parish where I had been saying Mass and told me that she remembered him from one of his earlier assignments (five years teaching high school) at Little Flower parish in Coral Gables which is now in the Archdiocese of Miami.
Patrick J. Trainor was actually born in New York state in 1917 of Irish parents who took he and his family back to Ireland when young Patrick was only three. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1944. In 1953 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s, a responsibility he held for thirty-eight years until his retirement due to health reasons in 1991.
When the late Archbishop Joseph P. Hurley assigned him to St. John Vianney on St. Petersburg Beach, it fell to his massive hands to build this parish up into the formidable faith community that it remains today. Annually countless thousands of tourists came to Mass at St. John’s while visiting the beach resorts and attended Sunday Mass. They witnessed the ushers in their colorful coats and ties and recall the congenial, gentle and kind pastor. With the beach community, St. John’s enjoyed enormous growth and eventually the present Church and school were built by Monsignor Trainor.
He was extremely devoted to Catholic education and to Catholic schools. He gave a major gift at the end of his pastorate to St. Petersburg Catholic High School which enabled me to build the Monsignor Patrick Trainor Media Center on the school’s site, eliminating the rickety and dangerous modular building which was falling apart. He supervised and directed the growth and development of his own parish school and with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, St. John’s elementary became quite a learning center. Its graduates have gone on to become successful professionals throughout the county and around the country. The dramatic drop in children along the beach with the corresponding closing this summer of the public elementary and the challenge to St. John’s school was something I suspect he was not aware of and I am glad of that.
Like many Irish pastors of his day, he set a good table and loved a good discussion (a.k.a. “argument”) which he would often bait. He expected work from his assistants and he himself worked hard at being a present and prescient pastor. A good number of our priests who worked in special ministries lived in residence at the rectory on Blind Pass Road.
People loved their pastor as much or more than their parish. That was often the way it was in those days. It was especially true of Monsignor. Ed Foster, Jr., a member of St. John’s and admirer and friend of Monsignor Trainor recalled in a comment sent to me today that when he would take his leave from Monsignor’s presence, he would say, “I’ll see you again soon” to which Trainor would respond, “If God wills it.” He was a man of faith and a man of the Church.
There is no denying that I am of Irish ancestry so I may as well admit it at the beginning of this penultimate paragraph. And I would say the same things but differently about the priests from Spain who Archbishop Hurley also brought to the state at the same time as the Irish influx. But there was something larger than life about these men. People respected them and loved them. In many ways, people adopted them, sharing the title of “father” with men who were strangers only briefly and then very quickly integrated into their family life through Church and school. As these great Irish pastors go home to the Lord, a lot of this Church’s history and achievement goes with them.
So it is with Monsignor Patrick J. Trainor. Cared for by a parish that never forgot him, ministered to in his human needs by caregivers who also grew to love him, and attended to by his three successors as pastors and their associates, Monsignor Trainor was granted the joy and privilege of departing from his beloved ten acres on Blind Pass Road in St. Petersburg Beach directly into eternal life. Some of us had the privilege of gathering around his death bed last night, awaiting the arrival of the funeral home to take him away and prepare his body for the farewells of this week. There was a peaceful look on his face, a smile on his lips. Finally, he was headed home, to the place he worked and lived his whole life for. My love and sympathy are extended to his sister who is a religious in Ireland and can not come, to his nieces and their families and to his American family, the people, past and present of St. John Vianney. We say ”good-by” this week to a good one.