Jim Egan is celebrating almost 70 years of service to Good Shepherd parish, Marine Park, and is still not slowing down.
Though he doesn’t remember, he has been told that when construction on the current Good Shepherd building began in 1939, he would sit on his porch and watch. Once he was old enough to serve, he began by sweeping the sidewalk in front of church and worked his way up to becoming a sacristan when he was just 14 years old, back in 1951.
Today, Jim still lives in his childhood home, down the block from the church, and it is where he raised his own family.
Father Thomas Doyle is the fifth pastor in Egan’s tenure and is grateful for his continued work. “We don’t survive without Jim Egan being around,” Father Doyle said. “He is the staple, the cornerstone, he truly is the foundation of the parish. He has dedicated his whole life to this church and his faith is so strong.
“I joke and tell people Jim was here before the church was, but jokes aside, he truly means so much to this parish and he would do anything to help.”
Egan worked at JP Morgan Bank for 29 years and served six years in the Army, but every time he had a break while on leave, he was back at Good Shepherd.
While he has always held onto his faith, he realizes others have not and wonders where the Church is moving.
“As we have seen, people leave the church, then their own children are not going to Mass and we have a generation of people where the Church is not important to them.”
Being a faithful Catholic is how Egan was raised, he said, “and this is how I raised my own son. The church has always been there for me so it has always been easy to give back. … Now more than ever, we need the Church and our faith. It is what gives us strength.”
“I started just by helping out around and sweeping and then eventually worked my way up, but I have also been an usher and eucharistic minister and do whatever needs to be done. The church has always been a part of mine and my wife’s life. It gives us strength and hope.”
Jim’s wife Mary is proud of her husband, but she confessed that early in their relationship, it was difficult to accept his role in the church.
“When we were first dating, I asked him to give it up because he worked the Saturday night Mass and wouldn’t get home till very late and that was hard to deal with in the beginning,” she said. “I eventually realized this was not a job for Jim, this was his life and I can’t take that away from him.”
Mary has continued to support Jim’s ministry through their 45 years of marriage. “I was raised very religious too, so I always joined him at Mass and he has been a continuous source of being able to keep my faith strong and I am grateful for that,” she said.