New Orleans Priests celebrate 50th anniversary of ordination

Father Val Ambrose McInnes, OP (left) and Father Neal McDermott, OP, at St. Dominic Church in New Orleans March 13

Father Val Ambrose McInnes, OP (left) and Father Neal McDermott, OP,
at St. Dominic Church in New Orleans March 13

Father Neal McDermott, OP, and Father Val Ambrose McInnes, OP, both members of the Southern Dominican Province, celebrated the 50th anniversary of their ordination on Sunday, March 13 at St. Dominic Church in New Orleans.

Fr. Neal and Fr. Val entered the novitiate together in 1954 and were ordained in Dubuque, Iowa in 1961. They were both born in Canada, and both live and work in New Orleans. Both have had distinguished careers in education and pastoral ministry.

Fr. Val is founder of the chair of Judeo Christian Studies at Tulane University, and president emeritus of the International Dominican Foundation. He has held both academic and pastoral positions at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota; King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, Canada; and Tulane University; and was homiletics professor at Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans. He is the founding pastor of the University Community of St. Thomas More.

Fr. Val has also been widely involved with the arts as a member of the advisory board of the Vatican Museums—he was director of the New Orleans Vatican Pavilion at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. He is past president of the Louisiana Council for Music and Performing Arts, and co-founder of the Louisiana Renaissance Religion and the Arts. He is also the senior chaplain for the only ecumenical order, the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.

Fr. Neal is the executive director of Christian formation for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In this role, he led the recovery of the Catholic school system after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

“The area that was flooded was as large as England,” said Fr. Neal. “We lost 21 school buildings—they were destroyed. We were able to get the governor to give support vouchers for inner-city kids to go to Catholic schools. I’m all about raising money to help kids.”

Fr. Neal attended the Pontifical Institute of St. Thomas and earned two pontifical degrees in philosophy and the Lector’s degree in theology from Aquinas Institute in Dubuque. He taught at Fenwick High School and at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin.

As a recipient of the Danforth Foundation Grant, Fr. Neal began a four-year study of psychology and religion at the University of Chicago. For his research project, he was invited by Fr. Andrew Greeley to become a research associate in the American Priest Study, a sociological survey of American priests after Vatican II. Fr. Neal was noticed by another scholar, Dr. James Fowler, and was invited as a fellow in his program in Faith Development after his master of arts program at Chicago. Fr. Neal wrote his doctoral dissertation under Dr. Fowler on a new model for campus ministry in Catholic institutions after Vatican II.

Fr. Neal came to New Orleans in 1984 to work at Loyola University. There, he led student retreats and served as director of campus ministry. After 25 years in higher education, Fr. Neal became pastor of St. Dominic parish in New Orleans.