THE REV. Robert M. Shay grew up in All Saints Parish in Bridesburg and, after traveling all over the country and Puerto Rico for more than 40 years as a missionary, wound up back home for the final four years of his priesthood.
"He came back to his hometown," said Brother John Skrodinsky, who shared a room with Shay at the Brother Augustine Missionary Cenacle at 1301 Oak Lane. "He was a true missionary. He was all about spreading God's love."
Shay was the chaplain of the motherhouse of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity at 3501 Solly Ave., and also helped out with parish duties at All Saints Church, Buckius and Thompson streets.
He died Saturday of complications of lung disease. He was 74.
He was ordained into the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, commonly referred to as Trinity Missions, in 1959 in Winchester, Va.
Trinity Missions comprise a group of laity, sisters, brothers, deacons and priests who make up the Missionary Cenacle Family, founded in Philadelphia in 1929. "Cenacle" refers to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where Christian tradition says the Last Supper was held and where Jesus' disciples became the first priests.
Robert Shay was born in Philadelphia to Joseph F. and Clara Shay. He graduated from All Saints Parochial School and moved to Holy Trinity, Ala., to attend the St. Joseph Preparatory School and Seminary.
He studied philosophy at the Father Judge Mission Seminary in Silver Lake, Pa., and theology at Holy Trinity Mission Seminary, Winchester, Va.
He then accepted assignments with various duties in Puerto Rico, California, Mississippi, Maryland, Florida, Alabama and Texas.
The duties of a Trinity missionary are described this way by the order: "You will find them moving from mission to mission, facing the unknown, bringing to those in need the spirit of hope. You will find them among the poor, the abandoned, the neglected - among migrants in California, the Choctaw native Americans in Mississippi, in the soup kitchens of Cleveland and the rural hills of Puerto Rico and Mexico . . . ."
"He was all for calling people to be apostles, to serve one another," Brother Joseph said. "He was very hospitable. He loved to greet people, to open his home to people visiting the community."
"He was a very spiritual, very giving person," said his sister, Claire Smith. "He was very loving and he had rich sense of humor."
He also served as a delegate to General Cenacle sessions every four years, at which the head of the order was selected and goals set for the next four years.
He was on the steering committee of the International Cenacle in 2001, and was a member of the equity committee from 1992 through 1996.
He also is survived by two other sisters, Kathleen Long and Margaret Mensing, and three brothers, Joseph, Francis and Richard. He was predeceased by a sister, Dolores Dombrowski and a brother, Donald Shay.