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Consumed by zeal for those he served, he was often asked to speak to groups interested in Middle Eastern affairs. There he pleaded for funds, clothing and supplies for the scores of Europeans exhausted by war and displacement and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose plight resembled their European counterparts.

One cannot neglect to note that McMahon was ably assisted by the Rev. Andrew Rogash and Monsignors Joseph F. Connelly and Peter P. Tuohy; the latter succeeded McMahon as national secretary in 1955. Also one must note the administrative team that operated out of Beirut – the first Pontifical Mission site – which was headed by the Rev. RaphaelKratzer, O.F.M., and the Rev. William Kailer Dunn.

On 16 March 1955, Msgr. McMahon tendered a simple resignation. It should come as no surprise to the reader that overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of his life, McMahon was now in poor health. Assigned as pastor to the Church of Our Savior in Manhattan, he died on 6 December 1956 at the young age of 47.

In a letter to Cardinal Spellman thanking him for the notification of McMahon’s impending resignation, Cardinal Tisserant noted with some wisdom that, “He literally was on fire for the cause of Christ.” Little did the cardinal realize how consuming that fire had been. In a letter to McMahon, the French cardinal stated, “Your name is held in grateful memory by thousands of refugees from Palestine, who without your timely and effective intervention would have been lost as homeless wanderers.”

In the eulogy delivered by his longtime associate, Msgr. Joseph Connelly, it was noted,

Greeted as ardently by the Holy Father in Rome or by the Fellahin children along the Nile Basin, he belonged equally to the Papal Household as to the fly-infested homes of the impoverished refugees.

By a twist of circumstances, at the time of McMahon’s funeral Mass, both his mother and father, in separate hospitals in New York City, lay dying, unaware that their son had gone before them.

What would Monsignor Thomas J. McMahon say of our world with its fits and starts for peace, endless parades of refugees, ethnic rivalries, exploitation and assorted ills? He would probably say “I’ve been there,” and then wisely advise us in words written about the agency of which he was president:

The Pontifical Mission emphasized beyond all other works those of an enduring nature. It met the needs of the moment, but in away to provide hope for the future.

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Brother David Carroll, F.S.C., is the Association’s director of programs.

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Tags: Refugees CNEWA Palestine Israel Holy Land