This past week Thomas Aquinas College officials learned of the passing of an old friend and the homilist at the College’s first Baccalaureate Mass, Msgr. Charles F. Taylor.
For more than 60 years Msgr. Taylor was a priest for the Diocese of Cheyenne, serving at parishes and mission churches in Rock Springs, Jackson, Powell, Lander, Kemmerer, and Buffalo. He was also the founding pastor of the St. Paul’s Newman Center parish at the University of Wyoming, where he served from 1959 to 1972. During that time he established the Newman School of Catholic Thought, a summer program open to students from across the United States that offered courses in Scripture, theology, Church history, Thomistic philosophy, and the writings of Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman. To staff the school, Msgr. Taylor recruited eminent Catholic scholars, both priests and laymen, including Dr. Ronald P. McArthur — then a professor at St. Mary’s College of California.
Msgr. Taylor and Dr. McArthur forged a friendship that would endure for decades. When Dr. McArthur became the founding president of Thomas Aquinas College, Monsignor was a loyal supporter from afar. In the College’s early years he served on its Board of Visitors, and he traveled to campus for the first Commencement exercises in 1975, presenting the homily at the Baccalaureate Mass.
“He was just a really good diocesan priest,” recalls Dr. McArthur’s wife, Marilyn. “He always told his bishop, ‘Put me wherever you want me,’ and then he would go wherever he was sent.”
Msgr. Taylor’s embrace of his vocation and commitment to Catholic education had a profound influence on many, including Thomas Aquinas College Chaplain Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem. (’78). “He was a real mentor for me,” reflects Fr. Hildebrand. “I met him while working in Grand Teton National Park. He was the local pastor. He hired me to help him in the rectory, and over a year’s time in conversations he showed me much about the truth and what Catholic education should be.” Indeed, it was at Monsignor’s recommendation that Fr. Hildebrand enrolled as a student at Thomas Aquinas College in 1974.
“Without a doubt Msgr. Taylor was the guiding influence not only for my choice of education but also as a model parish priest,” adds Fr. Hildebrand. “He was very influential in my spiritual journey at that time and paved the way for my vocation to the priesthood.”
Msgr. Taylor died on February 14 at his retirement home in Kemmerer, Wyo. — the city where he was born in 1926 and ordained in 1953. In his generosity, he left much of his personal library to the St. Bernardine of Sienna Library at the College.
May his soul and those of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.