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Published: Friday, 7/1/2011

The Rev. John McClure, 1929-2011: Priest a former chief judge of marriage court

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Rev. John McClure, a former chief judge of the diocesan tribunal that deals with marriage annulment, and a former parish pastor who was a chaplain to veterans and religious groups, died Wednesday in the Rosary Care Center, Sylvania. He was 82.

The cause of death was not known. He had Alzheimer's disease, said Msgr. William Kubacki, vicar of priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo.

Father McClure served more than 30 years on the tribunal, which chiefly handles annulments -- that is, deciding whether a couple were married according to conditions considered valid by the Church. A couple have to have a civil divorce before applying for a church annulment, Monsignor Kubacki said.

"The tribunal was his first love," Monsignor Kubacki said. "He ran a tight ship at the tribunal, and he did very well in dealing with individuals in a pastoral way, especially those who had troubled marriages. He made people feel comfortable right away in dealing with some of the more hurting issues."

Father McClure was assigned part time to the tribunal about 1970. In 1980, he received a licentiate in canon -- that is, Church -- law from St. Paul's University and a master's degree in canon law from Ottawa University, both in Ottawa, Ont. He became judicial vicar, or chief judge, in 1981, succeeding Msgr. Lawrence Mossing.

Father McClure was deliberative and detail oriented, said Msgr. Michael Billian, chancellor of the diocese. Added to that was a self-discipline strengthened by Navy service in the Korean War.

"When he sat down with somebody, it was as if the two of them were the only two in the world," Monsignor Billian said.

"If it was a marriage issue, he would work so personally with an individual and help them through the steps of the church law. That's what endeared him to people."

He liked the intellectual challenge of the work.

"He was a smart individual, and to read a case and look at it from a Church lawyer's perspective, that was intriguing to him," Monsignor Kubacki said.

The tribunal "was an avenue where he could really help people," his sister Joy Ortyl said. "He had great sympathy for people who were trapped in marriages that were not working and were in fact destructive."

He retired about 10 years ago. Father McClure lived since the late 1980s at the Rosary Care Center, where he was chaplain to Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania who live there.

He was a chaplain to posts of the Catholic War Veterans and the American Legion and to units of the Civil Air Patrol, as well as to Teamsters Local 20. He was a former president of the Korean War Veterans' Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter No. 131.

He was a brigadier general with the U.S. Service Command, a group that dispatches chaplains to disaster sites. In 2000, he was admitted as a knight of the Order of St. Catherine of Sinai, a religious and military service organization. During a ceremony in London, he received a cape, a medallion, and the title "Sir."

After his induction, he told The Blade that he'd been called everything from "Sir McClure" to "Sir Father General."

He was born April 27, 1929, in Toledo to Pauline and Noel McClure. He grew up in Gesu Parish in West Toledo and was a 1948 graduate of Central Catholic High School. He attended the University of Detroit before he went into the Navy. He entered the seminary afterward and was ordained a priest May 26, 1962. He was a former pastor of St. Agnes and St. Jude parishes in Toledo and served parishes in Maumee, Mansfield, Swanton, Fayette, and Marblehead.

As a young man, he was a painter and photographer. Family members received the grandfather, kitchen, and mantle clocks he built in later years from kits.

At the office, he had a joke to tell every day, Monsignor Billian said.

"He was fun to be in the office with because you could banter with him," Monsignor Billian said. "He could make you laugh."

Surviving are his sisters, Marie O'Kane and Donna Joy Ortyl.

Visitation, beginning with vespers, will be from 4-8 p.m. Friday in the Queen of Peace Chapel at the Sylvanian Franciscan Motherhouse. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in the chapel, where visitation will resume at 9 a.m. Arrangements are by the Thomas I. Wisniewski Funeral Home.

Tributes are requested to the priests' retirement fund of the Diocese of Toledo.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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