The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts today is mourning the death of one of its founding directors, John J. “Joe” MacIsaac, who entered into eternal life Sunday night, after a long struggle with prostate cancer. He was ninety-one.
One of ten children, Joe was born in Nova Scotia, the son of a Scots Gaelic speaker. The family traced its ancestry to the Isle of Eigg, in the Inner Hebrides, the part of Scotland which remained Catholic after the Protestant Revolution.
When Joe was an infant, his family emigrated to Massachusetts, and settled in the Jamaica Plain district of Boston, where Joe grew up, attending parochial schools. At the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Joe MacIsaac had a secure and draft-exempt position as a skilled defense worker at the United States Arsenal at Watertown. He gave it up to enlist in the U. S. Army.
A combat infantryman, Joe landed in Marseilles following Operation Anvil — the invasion of southern France — and took part in the fighting as Allied forces worked their way up the Rhone valley and across the Vosges mountains into Germany and later, Austria. His outfit, the 103rd Infantry Division, liberated the Kaufering concentration camp, a satellite facility of the infamous Dachau death camp. Conversant in French and fluent in German, Joe was often given the duty of communicating with French civilians and guarding Nazi prisoners.
At the end of the war, Joe entered Harvard on the G.I. Bill. A few weeks before graduation, Joe became one of two students to resign from the Harvard Class of 1948, (Robert F. Kennedy’s class), to become a spiritual follower of Father Leonard Feeney, S.J. Joe would remain a supporter of the Saint Benedict Center for the rest of his life. Like Justice Joe Nolan, Joe MacIsaac was a friend and disciple of the late Brother Francis Maluf, M.I.C.M. Joe’s sibling, Brother Hugh MacIsaac, M.I.C.M., was also a follower of Father Feeney, and would become Superior of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary prior to his death in 1979.
Joe would go on to marry, raise a large family, — to whom he was intensely and selflessly devoted, — and embark on a 44 year career in the U. S. Post Office, and its successor, the U. S. Postal Service.
An admirer of James Michael Curley, Joe MacIsaac spent 37 years in the political organization of Massachusetts State Representative James J. Craven, Jr. For 18 years after that, he served on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts.
Catholic Action League Executive Director C. J. Doyle made the following statement:”A fervent, pious, prayerful and apostolic Catholic, Joe MacIsaac was a dedicated member of the Church Militant, who possessed an extraordinary capacity to be at once both resolute yet serene in the face of adversity, including the disease which ultimately ended his life. He was also a faithful husband, and a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I shall always remember him as a brave man, a loyal friend and a Christian gentleman.”
Joe MacIsaac is survived by wife Elena, six children (a daughter, Carol, pre-deceased him), thirteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Father Charles Stanley MacIsaac of the Oblates of Wisdom.
Funeral arrangements will be with the Dolan Funeral Home in Milton. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Saint Agatha’s Church in Milton. Dates and times are pending.
Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen. Anima ejus et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace. Amen.