The Rev. Myles McGowan, a priest born and trained in Ireland, found his pastoral calling among Minnesota Catholics.

McGowan, 88, who served in the New Ulm Diocese and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for many years, died Nov. 26 in St. Paul.

He followed a long tradition of serving Irish immigrants in English-speaking nations.

McGowan, a native of Mohill, County Leitrim, Ireland, trained at St. Patrick's Seminary in Carlow, Ireland, that prepared priests for service outside of Ireland.

"We had a greatness of supply, so they entered that seminary to serve in other countries," said his brother, the Rev. Michael McGowan of Dublin.

He said his brother, as a lad, became interested in serving the church in Minnesota because several uncles were priests in the Twin Cities.

He was ordained in 1945, but ocean passage was difficult to get at the end of World War II, so his departure for the Twin Cities was delayed a year.

"He was so dedicated" and his many parishioners took to him immediately, said his longtime friend, retired the Rev. William Baumgaertner of St. Paul.

"He was an open book and people knew that. It was a gift," said Baumgaertner said.

"He had a beautiful voice," with an Irish accent, Baumgaertner said, adding that his friend was much in demand to hear confession.

"He was a sympathetic soul and he understood people and the challenges they faced," Baumgaertner said.

When he arrived in Minnesota, he served as associate pastor of the Church of St. Michael in St Paul, Holy Rosary in Graceville, and St. John in St. Paul. He served as pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Assumption and St. John in Morton.

In 1957, when the Diocese of New Ulm was carved out of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese, he served parishes in Litchfield, St. Peter and Forest City.

He also took on leadership roles for New Ulm and Minnesota Catholic groups.

In 1990, he retired from full-time service, returning to St. Paul to live and helping parishes in the Twin Cities and in the New Ulm Diocese.

The Rev. John Berger, pastor of St. Gregory and St. George churches in Lafayette, said congregations of all ethnic groups took to him enthusiastically, and younger pastors looked up to him as a role model.

"He was an unusually good, gentle man, definitely a leader," Berger said.

When McGowan was a young priest in Graceville, he served on the high school's faculty and was assigned to coach the football team. He knew next to nothing about American football.

With the weekly guidance of a sporting goods salesman, he "wound up with a pretty good football team," Berger said.

In addition to Michael, he is survived by his other brother, John of Mohill, Ireland; sisters, Mary of County Longford, Ireland, Sister Mel McGowan of Athlone, Ireland, and Bernice of Dunedin, Fla.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Lumen Christi Catholic Church, 2055 Bohland Av., St. Paul.

Visitation will be held at 10 a.m. at the church.