Father Maurice Harrigan worked three years in market development for a Fortune 200 company with offices in New York City, Chicago and St. Louis. But as his business career was taking off, he sensed a calling to something different. After traveling through Europe and rediscovering the Catholic faith, he returned stateside and entered the seminary.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles 20 years ago. Father Harrigan is the pastor of Mary Star of the Sea, a historic and thriving parish in San Pedro, Calif. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
How did you discern the priesthood as your vocation?
The corporate world in the roaring 1980s was a wild time. I had everything the world told me I needed to be happy, yet something was missing. There was an emptiness. I actually quit my job and moved to Europe for a year and traveled around. While I was in Europe, I had a reversion back to the Catholic faith and discerned that I was called to be a priest. I came back to the United States and entered the seminary immediately.
Where does your love of travel come from, and where have you traveled?
I’ve always had wanderlust. I worked with Mother Teresa’s sisters for 25 years. They’ve had me pretty busy traveling all over the world, giving retreats, giving different programs and conferences for the different sisters. I’ve been pretty much all over the world except for South America, Russia and China.
I’ve always been interested in other cultures and other people — the way they live, the way they survive, their economics, their politics, their spirituality. I find that intriguing. I find when you go to a place, you get a different perspective on cultures and people. That ultimately translates into better serving the people that God puts you in front of.
What have been your assignments as a priest?
I’ve done some work with the military. I’ve also done prison work, mostly though parish ministry. I did some work with the Marines out of Camp Pendleton. In the first five years of my priesthood, I was in an area where they had several large state prisons, so I did prison work with youth and real hardened criminals.
What’s it like being pastor of Mary Star of the Sea?
It’s a blessing. It’s an extremely complex parish. We have Mass in five languages every Sunday. There’s a great diversity of cultures here. I’ve been in every country that I’m serving here, actually, which is nice. I can bring that into my pastoral experience. There’s a lot of history here, and I’ve only been in the parish for two years. I’m learning a lot and trying to shepherd these people as best as I can — and get to know them and allow them to know me, and to move forward together in these complex times.
What has your experience been like as a Legatus chaplain?
It’s been amazingly positive. The people, at least in this chapter, are very dedicated Catholics and very concerned about the needs and welfare of the Church and the people of God, the poor, the rich, everybody. They bring a myriad of experiences, wisdom and insight into both the corporate world — including the challenges to corporate people and faith — and what’s going on in the world.
What value does Legatus bring to the Church?
Legatus is a classic example of the leaven in the bread. We need these kinds of dedicated Catholic Christians in the professional world to lift it up, not only to make their work in their places of work holy, but to make their various fields of endeavor sacred and holy places where God’s light can shine.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.