Father Pat Tobin is a man with a clear mission for his life

from Nodaway News Leader, Maryville, Missouri, March 17, 2006

Father Pat Tobin is more than a local boy that has done good. He has lived his life to the fullest everyday.

On this Saturday, March 18, he and his family will celebrate an 11 am Mass of Thanksgiving for the Golden Jubilee of his ordination as a Catholic priest. The event will be held in his church, St. Therese, 7207 NW Highway 9, Kansas City. It will recognize Fr. Pat’s ordination, which was on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1956 by Bishop John Patrick Cody at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Maryville. There will also be a reception for Fr. Pat after the 4:30 Mass on March 18 and after the 8 am, 10 am and noon Masses on March 19.

St. Therese Parish, actually in Parkville, is one of the largest in the diocese with 3,200 families and noted also as one of the fastest growing churches in the Catholic faith.

During his 50 years of service, Fr. Pat has ministered in parishes in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Cameron, Maysville and Grandview.

Fr. Pat was born on June 10, 1930 in St. Francis Hospital, Maryville, to Frank and Nora Kelly Tobin, who are both deceased. His family members are brothers: John, Maryville; Kelly, New Market, IA; Maurice, Washington, DC; Fr. Chuck, pastor of St. Sabina parish in Belton and one sister, Mary Ellen Mahr, Mission, KS. Two brothers, Kieran and Terrance, are deceased. Fr. Chuck who was ordained in 1968 served the local parish, St. Gregory’s Barbarigo Church as well as spent five years in the Hispanic missions in Bolivia. He now has 500 Hispanic families in his congregation of 1,700 families at St. Sabina.

Fr. Pat is a man on a mission. His 50 years of ministry has demonstrated his love for the poor and oppressed.

“It is part of my call to the ministry. I think Judgment will be devastating in some ways because we will look back on some of the things we could have done to affect people’s lives for the good and we failed to do it,” said Fr. Pat, when commenting on his labor of helping people.

Fr. Pat’s call to help people in every walk of life has been evident in his many missions with Mother Teresa. In 1968, Fr. Pat’s pastoral outreach took an international turn. He was pastor of the Linwood and Benton parish in Kansas City, an inner city church that later became the Church of the Risen Christ. Because of the civil unrest around his parish and the bleak situation the youth of the area was in, he wrote Mother Teresa a letter requesting a tape-recorded message for the parishioners. She responded and they met in Chicago.

Soon after that meeting, Mother Teresa asked Fr. Pat to come to Calcutta, India to give a retreat for 800 of her Missionaries of Charity. He wired back saying Mother Teresa must have made a mistake. Her reply was, “No mistake. Come to Calcutta.” This was the beginning of Fr. Pat giving eight-day retreats to the sisters in 31 countries, often with Mother Teresa as co-director. His brother, Maurice, financed the trips that had the theme of “Let the Jesus in you meet the Jesus in other people.”

Through these travels with Mother Teresa, Fr. Pat witnessed the worldwide hunger crisis first hand.

Fr. Pat has had many beginnings in his life, besides his ordination into priesthood. He was one of the founders of Harvesters, which started in 1979. Harvesters was one of the first food banks established in the United States and as you might imagine started out modestly in a loaned space in a downtown cold storage facility. With Fr. Pat’s help, and many others through the years, the Harvesters distributed over 25 million pounds of food in 2005. Over 1,800 volunteers sort food at Harvesters each month.

Presently his project of water purification addresses one basic fact of malnutrition, safe drinking water is missing. Fr. Pat has found a Proctor and Gamble powdered mix which when mixed with 10 liters of water will purify at a cost of one penny. He reported that several million of the packets have been sent to the tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. This alone helped the victims of that disaster avoid diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, cholera and typhoid.

“Two thirds of the world’s hunger problem is related to impure drinking water,” says Fr. Pat.

He is hosting a special program at his church in Parkville on March 21 to further address the Proctor and Gamble product and the possibilities it could provide to countries across the globe. The event is free and will be from 4-6 pm and again from 6-9 pm.

One of Fr. Pat’s early missions involved the Neighborhood Youth Corps where he aided in the placement of 600 street children into foster homes while he served as associate director of Catholic Charities from 1959-1977. He started a day care center and a neighborhood housing rehabilitation program in St. Joseph.

He also served as a prison chaplain at the Western Correctional Center in Cameron for over 4,000 inmates where he developed a work program for the prisoners to sack food for the hungry and make educational blocks for children. This effort allowed the inmates to develop self-worth, while they were helping the less fortunate. In 1992, Fr. Pat was honored as the Missouri Corrections Association Volunteer of the Year.

The farm boy at heart, Fr. Pat also instigated gardens at the Cameron facility where he furnished 2,000 tomato plants and 100 watermelon and cantaloupe vines to begin a gardening project. Later, flowers and even a greenhouse were added. The produce that resulted from the gardens was given to the poor.

“We grew a half million pounds of vegetables in one year. Ninety percent of the vegetables were eaten the day they were picked,” said Fr. Pat.

While serving as associate director of Catholic Charities, he also was the Jackson County Juvenile Court chaplain. Through his efforts, over 100 boys were allowed to go to Fr. Flanagan Boys Town in Omaha, NE.

“Every 10 days or so I made the 11 hour trip, long before I-29, to Omaha to take boys to their new home and to visit the lads there for a progress report,” said Fr. Pat.

During his 16-year stint with Catholic Charities, Fr. Pat also brought 120 Cuban families to the Kansas City/St. Joseph area for relocation. Federal housing programs gave homes to the families in the housing projects at a cost of $25 per month for six months and the participating parishes furnished the homes prior to the family’s arrival.

“I was the bus driver for the twice weekly language classes and the numerous trips to all the places they needed like groceries, library, to get a drivers license or to register for school,” said Fr. Pat.

Throughout his life’s work, Fr. Pat has adopted one of Mother Teresa's thoughts, "Unless life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile."

Fr. Pat's life stories prove the worth of his missions.

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