Fr. James McIlhargey – The Recalcitrant Legionary

By Kevin B. Fagan, PhD.
Contact the author at

In Memoriam
Fr. James Manus McIlhargey, 1946-2005

On October 11th , 2005, Fr. James Manus Mc Ilhargey entered eternal life in Concepcion, Chile. Raised in Co. Donegal, he joined the religious congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1964, thus becoming one of its first Irish-born members. After studies in Dublin, Salamanca and Rome, his name now changed to James by legionary founder, Rev. Marcial Maciel, Manus exercised a very fruitful pastoral ministry in Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Chile. Enthusiastically embracing the ideals of the Legion, and given his charism in youth leadership, he collaborated generously and successfully with the budding organization, helping found the ECYD Teen Movement and administer new legionary schools. In turn, he recruited many talented young men to the Legion, including those now occupying its top executive cadre at Rome headquarters. A series of significant events, however, together with his critical mind, gradually undermined his acceptance of the group; this lead to the label, el recalicrante (the recalcitrant one), being applied to Manus by the Rev. Maciel. His final years in Chile were marked by happiness in his faith and priesthood, but abandonment by the Congregation. REGAIN has requested Kevin Fagan, life-long friend of James Manus, to evoke some memories, leading readers to an appreciation of this faithful friend and dedicated priest.

Weeks after these reflections about Fr. James appeared on this site, the Legion of Christ published its own version of his life and times. Dr. Fagan’s article is in English only. The Legion published theirs in Spanish and we do not offer a translation. The good people of Chile to whom Fr. James ministered know the facts and do not need any clarifications.

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