Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farewell to the Beloved Creator of "Brother Juniper"

The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province (OFM) have an e-newsletter that I receive on a regular basis. I opened the current one this morning and sadly learned of the death of one of my favorite cartoonist, Fred McCarthy, the creator of Brother Juniper.

He was a Massachusetts man, born in Boston. He attended Boston College, where he began to exhibit a talent for cartooning. He entered the Franciscan Order, and was ordained a priest in 1944. He was known then as Father Justin McCarthy. It is mentioned in his biography, that Brother Juniper came to birth in 1957, with the publication of the first collection of cartoons. I have in front of me a copy of that book, which I found in a used book store. It is a little worn and frayed, but I treasure it.

Brother Juniper came into being in the time pre Vatican II Church. I think it was a time when the clergy, especially bishops, might have taken themselves a little too seriously; and Church life was a little too formal. Then along comes this little friar, a little irreverent, a little silly, who liked to tweak the cowls of his fellow friars. Brother Juniper brought a smile to the lips of close to 15 million readers, in 100 newspapers, from 1968 to 1989.

Fred McCarthy would eventually leave the priesthood and the Order. He married and he continued his career as a cartoonist and artist. He returned the Secular Franciscan Order, which he had joined in his youth. He would periodically contribute a Brother Juniper cartoon to the national SFO newsletter.

His sense of holy humor is going to be missed.

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