Father Justin Monaghan, the former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Joplin passes at his home Sunday night

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JOPLIN, Mo. — The spiritual leader of an area faith community has passed away.

But he’s well known beyond the church he pastored for nearly two decades.

Margie Black, St. Mary’s Parishioner, said, “Father Justin was a man of great faith and great love.”

Father Justin Monaghan, the former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Joplin passed away at his home Sunday night of an apparent heart attack.

Monaghan was born in Ireland and had been a priest for more than 50 years — he was then the Pastor at St. Mary’s for nearly 20 years until his retirement two years ago.

Margie Black is a teacher and parishioner at St. Mary’s and says he’ll be remembered for his grace and strength, especially after the may 2011 tornado.

“Everything he knew around him was gone, the church, the school, his home, his office, he lost everything and but he stepped right up and in true Father Justin fashion, worried about taking care of the people, and and he has been through a lot and he is a man of amazing strength.”

Ft. Joe Weidenbenner, Pastor, St. Mary Parish, said, “I think he really found challenge, you know, with everybody else in Joplin, to bring the parish back together after such a terrible disaster like the tornado, uh just a very hard working, generally caring pastor.”

Not long after the May 22nd, 2011 Joplin tornado, Ft. Justin Monaghan struck up a friendship with then president Barack Obama, in fact, Obama invited Monaghan to a state dinner at the White House a few years later.

Just a few years later, both the new St. Mary’s Church and Elementary School of Religion reopened a few miles west of it’s original location.

“We were able to come into this church and have our first mass, it was a moment that you felt, whether you were a part of this church community or not, knowing we had a home again was very important to him and it was important for him to help provide that to his parishioners,” said Black.

Monaghan wasn’t the only member of his family to serve the Catholic Church.

He is survived by his brother Fergus who is also a retired Catholic Priest.

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