Most Reverend Lawrence J. McNamara

Biographical Notes

Birth through Pastoral Work

Bishop Lawrence J. McNamara of Grand Island, Nebraska was born in Chicago in 1928 and died on December 17, 2004. He was a graduate of Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota, and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he earned a degree in Theology. He was ordained in May, 1953 as a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City, Missouri (now Kansas City-St. Joseph). Bishop McNamara held an honorary degree of Doctor of Law from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

Bishop McNamara held numerous Church and civic posts in the Kansas City area. He was a parish priest and high school teacher, Diocesan Refugee Resettlement Director, Chairman of the United Campaign Agency Executives Association, Chaplain of Jackson County Jail, President of the Kansas City Citizens' Alliance for the War on Poverty. He was also a board member of the Human Resources Commission of Kansas City, State Committee on Aging, and the Jackson County Civil Rights Commission and was Moderator of the Diocesan Family Life Bureau.

Known for His Work in Social Justice

Bishop McNamara was known for his work in reorganizing and enlarging the scope of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. Under then Father McNamara's direction of the agency, between 1957 and 1969, its efforts expanded to include programs in job opportunity training, remedial and adult basic education, tutoring for children in both Catholic and public schools, medically related services, family enrichment and pre-Cana programs, services to the elderly and housing programs.

His agency sponsored the first Out of School Neighborhood Youth Corps Program in Kansas City. He also sponsored a community action program through the Office of Economic Opportunity to provide social work service to adolescent youth and teenage gangs, and a program for the training of unemployed adults.

Bishop McNamara was chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Charities Commission on Housing from 1969 to 1972. He was the Diocesan Director for Catholic Relief Services, the overseas aid agency of American Catholics. In the latter capacity, he was sent in 1970 on a visitation of CRS programs in west Africa. Bishop McNamara was appointed Executive Director of the Campaign for Human Development, United States Catholic Conference, in 1973 and served in that capacity for some five years.


Named by Pope Paul VI as Bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska, in January of 1978, he was ordained on March 28 of that year and has continued in that responsibility until his death.

Subsequent to his ordination as bishop, he has served as President of the National Council of Catholic Bishops' Committees for Liaison with Women Religious, The American Board of Catholic Missions, Campaign for Human Development and National Episcopal Advisor for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in the United States. In his later years, he served on the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services.