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Rev. John P. McNamee papers

Identifier: MSS0072

Scope and Contents

The Rev. John P. McNamee papers are arranged into eleven series that chronicle his community work, speaking engagements, correspondence, parish work, research and writing. Included are photographs and other biographical documents. The documents range in date from the 1940s to 2016. However, the bulk of the documents date from the 1970s to 2011 and most relate to his experiences as a Catholic parish priest at the inner city parish of St. Malachy Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Deeply committed to a wide range of peace and social justice issues, Fr. McNamee also corresponded, worked with organizations, and collected research to assist in his efforts to promote community development, obtain services for his parishioners, counsel conscientious objectors during the Vietnam conflict and support the efforts of other Catholic action groups toward nuclear disarmament. Fr. McNamee expressed himself in a variety of different genres: personal diaries, articles, homilies, speeches, books, and poetry. His papers include handwritten drafts, journals, notebooks, typed manuscripts, clippings, and published works that reflect the social conditions within his parish, his spirituality, his love of poetry, and his peace and justice activism.


  • circa 1940-2016
  • Majority of material found within 1970-2011


Conditions Governing Access

The Prisoner Correspondence in Box 8a is restricted to research use only in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room. No files can be reproduced per donor request.

Biographical / Historical

Reverend John P. McNamee was born in 1933 and ordained a diocesan priest in Philadelphia at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on May 7, 1959. Early in his priesthood, Fr. McNamee served as curate (parish priest) at Philadelphia’s Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul and as a member of the archdiocese’s first liturgical commission, which was formed after Vatican II. Inspired by the work of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, Fr. McNamee decided early on that he wanted to serve inner city working poor. In the 1970s, he was assigned to St. Francis DeSales and Most Precious Blood Parishes. Between 1979 and 1982, he was assistant pastor at St. Rose of Lima Parish. In December 1982, Fr. McNamee was assigned as an administrator at St. Malachy’s Parish in North Philadelphia and in 1984 was appointed pastor. He served in that position until his retirement in 2008.

In 1993, at the encouragement of friends and colleagues, Fr. McNamee published a book titled Diary of a City Priest. Consisting of a collection of his journal entries from 1989 to 1991, the work chronicles his experiences working in an inner city parish that often tested his faith and resolve. In one of the entries Fr. McNamee asks, “What are the consequences for faith and belief in a landscape where there is so little to believe in?” Diary of a City Priest was well-received and in 2001 it was adapted into a film of the same title. Actor David Morse portrayed Rev. McNamee in the film. Rev. McNamee followed up this work with Endurance in 1996 and three books of poetry: Clay Vessels and Other Poems (1995), Derrybeg and Back (2010), and Donegal Suite (2006).


15 Linear Feet (40 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Rev. John P. McNamee papers are organized into eleven series: 1. Biography; 2. Community organizations; 3. Conferences, events, and speaking engagements; 4. Correspondence; 5. Photographs and scrapbooks; 6. St. Malachy Parish; 7. Subject files; 8. Writing; 9. Oversized; 10. June 2013 Addition; 11. March 2017 Addition. See individual series and subseries-level descriptions for arrangement details.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession 2010.10; 2010.16; 2010.29; 2012.34; 2013.26; 2017.026

Related Materials

Berrigan-McAlister papers; Daniel Berrigan papers; Jerome Berrigan papers; Elmer Maas Plowshares collection; Endurance: The Rhythm of Faith. SpC. 282.092 M169e1996; Derrybeg and back. SpC. 811.54 M169d2010; Donegal Suite. SpC. 811.54 M169do2006; Diary of a City Priest. SpC. 282.092 M169d1993; Clay Vessels and Other Poems. SpC. 811.54 M169c1995

Processing Information

B. Martorell 2011; M. McCoy 2012; D. Potts 2015; M. Salvon March 2017; revised by P. Chavez 2018

Guide to Rev. John P. McNamee papers
B. Martorell 2011; M. McCoy 2012; D. Potts 2015; M. Salvon March 2017; revised by P. Chavez 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the DePaul Special Collections and Archives Repository

John T. Richardson Library
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Room 314
Chicago Illinois 60614