Story by EmmaLee Italia, Correspondent
“The ultimate goal [of a priest] is to be able to love God and to love all people,” said Father Daniel G. Cahill, who is celebrating 45 years of priestly ministry. “And I’ve had that wonderful honor of being able to pursue that all these years, and I continue to do that.”
Photo Gallery: Father Cahill celebrates Mass before retirement
Having served most recently as pastor of St. Ann Parish, Keansburg, for more than 23 years, Father Cahill retired July 1 from full-time ministry and moved to Villa Vianney, Lawrenceville – which frees him to continue serving in various parishes throughout the Diocese of Trenton as he is needed.
“With all its ups and downs, it’s a very rewarding life,” he said, “and I look forward to many more years of serving in that capacity.”
Father Daniel Gerard Cahill was born in 1948 in Killarney, Ireland, to parents Jeremiah and Elizabeth Cahill – the middle child of five, with three brothers and one sister. The family belonged to St. Joseph Parish, Rathmore, in the Diocese of Kerry. After studying in St. Brendan High School, Killarney, he prepared for the priesthood at University College and All Hallows Seminary, both in Dublin. Father Cahill was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Trenton June 17, 1973.
“I grew up in a very Catholic home, with Mass, regular Confessions, praying the Rosary at home as a family, [serving as an] altar boy,” he said, of his path to his vocation. “As a young man, I was attracted to [and] pursued the possibility of the priesthood. My parents were very supportive.”
Father Cahill, while still enrolled in seminary, came to the United States to work during the summers for two years prior to his ordination. “I fell in love with America,” he said, “and I came back two years later as an ordained priest.”
That journey began with stints as parochial vicar, first in St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, and next in St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton. During the latter tenure of 10 years, he also served as a religion teacher and chaplain in McCorristin Catholic High School (now Trenton Catholic Academy), Hamilton. Father Cahill was named pastor of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills, in 1989, then pastor of St. Ann Parish, Keansburg, March 17, 1995.
“Priesthood for all of us Catholics is love of God and love of all God’s people,” he reflected. “The priesthood allowed me to live that out in a very unique way, [through] Mass, the Sacraments, religious education, helping the poor, helping people with their personal problems. All of that was very satisfying and rewarding. It still continues.”
Father Cahill found additional ways to minister, serving as chaplain of the Monmouth County Serra Club for 16 years, and as a member of the diocesan presbyteral council. He continues to act as state chaplain of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, as he has for more than 25 years. Additionally, he was chaplain for the Monmouth County Ancient Order of Hibernians, and for 23 years was chaplain for the Bayside Council of the Knights of Columbus.
“The most important part of the [priesthood] is beginning with God and relying on his grace and his love,” Father Cahill stressed. “So therefore, the celebration of Mass is where it all begins.”
Retirement will not slow him down much, as Father Cahill already has plans to repeat his annual three-week trip to Skagway, Alaska, assisting in a mission parish in the Diocese of Juneau.
“I plan to go there for three weeks this September ... there are only nine priests for the whole diocese, and each priest has two parishes; they’re small communities,” he explained. “When I’m there, the pastor gives me [a parish] and lets me have it virtually on my own for the time I’m there. His other parish is 45 minutes away by boat – and if he’s rushed for time, he takes a small plane. It’s a different world, but they’re the same people with the same needs.”
Father Cahill said he draws strength from the encouragement he receives when hearing of how people have been enriched by his experience over the past 45 years.
“I’m so happy I chose this vocation,” he said. “It’s been much more rewarding for me that I’ve been able to help all of these people in their spiritual and temporal lives.”