100-year-old parishioner ‘still mining the faith,’ pastor says

William Geoghegan sat in St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., Oct. 21 following daily Mass. Geoghegan will be 101 years old Nov. 1 and has been attending daily Mass at St. James for more than four decades. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. — On Nov. 1, William Geoghegan will be 101 years old, but he can still genuflect — knees to the ground — when he attends daily Mass at St. James Church, where he’s been a parishioner for about six decades.

Father Michael Wimsatt, pastor of St. James, said it’s clear that Geoghegan is living out of a desire for God and he’s proof that we don’t “graduate” in the Catholic faith.

“He’s still mining the faith. … He’s still digging deeper,” said Father Wimsatt during a recent interview.

Geoghegan, a veteran of World War II, was born in Chester Grove, just outside of Shelbyville, Ky., in 1921, where he was raised on a farm. Many things have changed during the century that he’s been alive, but the one constant has been his faith, he said during an interview at the parish office.

He was baptized in the Catholic Church when he was seven years old. He’s always practiced his faith, he said, with the exception of a brief period while serving in the U.S. Navy. He served from 1941-1961.

He met his late wife Carol while stationed in California. They were married in 1947 and she converted to Catholicism. Geoghegan said she “straightened” him out, and he returned to practicing his faith and has done so ever since.

Geoghegan doesn’t miss daily Mass at St. James.

“The Lord stays with me,” he said. So when he perceived that God was asking him to spend an hour in church every day, Geoghegan said his answer was, “ ‘Yes, Lord.’ ”

“I went one time during Lent as a sacrifice and I just kept going,” he said.

That was more than four decades ago.

William Geoghegan, left, stood with his son Tom Geoghegan outside of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., Oct. 21. William Geoghegan will be 101 years old Nov. 1 and has been attending daily Mass at St. James for more than four decades. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Tom Geoghegan, William Geoghegan’s son, said his father desires to serve as a role model for younger people in the church.

Father Wimsatt agrees that William Geoghegan is a role model for the parish community and for him as well.

“Sometimes the world holds up role models that don’t live up to that responsibility, but in him, we have an authentic role model who is an important witness to all of us, including myself,” said Father Wimsatt. “At the core of who we are is a desire for God. You can see him living out of that desire for God.”

William Geoghegan and his wife, who died in 2010, lived in California for about a decade following their wedding. When his service in the Navy came to an end in 1961, he purchased 75 acres of land just outside Elizabethtown, which he turned into a farm, and brought his family back to Kentucky.

“I was raised on a farm and I think there’s no better place to raise children than on a farm,” he said.

Tom Geoghegan said his father instilled faith in him and his siblings and taught them about honesty and respect.

“He inspires me every day. He amazes me every day,” he said.

He also taught them how to laugh. On his farm, William Geoghegan owned a sawmill. The slogan for his business was “Come See What I Saw.” The memory had Tom Geoghegan laughing; it brought a smile to William Geoghegan’s face and a twinkle to his eyes.

William Geoghegan said he believes the secret to a long life is the “good Lord, a good wife and good wine.”

His son said he believes faith has played a role in sustaining his father through a century.

“His faith is what kept him going strong. The good Lord is not done with him down here,” said Tom Geoghegan, adding that his father likes to joke, “ ‘The good Lord thinks I have more penance to do.’ ”

Over the course of his life, William Geoghegan has accomplished much. He served for 21 years in the Navy, working as an aviation metalsmith. During the war, he worked with jet propulsion in Annapolis, Md., Point Mugu, Calif., and the Philippines. Back on his farm, he raised cattle and grew tobacco. He later worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 15 years.

Tom Geoghegan said his father also found time for the church, where he served as an usher. He was an active member of the Knights of Columbus for 60 years. In his 90s, he volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul, stocking shelves in the food pantry and repairing furniture in the store.

William Geoghegan said he has no plans for his 101st birthday, but he’s had a “good life.”

“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve always taken things as they come. The Lord puts them in front of me and I accept them.”

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