If there were more priests like Patrick Tarrant, there’d be more Catholics in the pews.

He attracted like a magnet. You heard his quiet, simple, humble words from the altar. You felt a holiness coming out of him. And you wanted to take a piece of that holiness home.

“Each day is a gift from God; how we live that day is our gift to Him,” Father Patrick said in a sermon at Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville, Mass., on July 31, 2005. “So think of how you will live your life — today.”

“Remember to pray. Pray every day,” he said in a sermon in August of 2006. “Remember, make that time.”

Read what’s “trashy?” Watch what’s “trashy?” Then you feel “trashy,” he said in yet another August sermon that year. “Read spiritual writing? You feel good … you feel wonderful.”

After St. Matthew’s stern gospel against divorce — when the divorced in the pews would shrivel, recalling their own missteps — he offered a forgiving, compassionate, do-better perspective on abandoning a marriage. “Turn this around,” he said. “How about the topic of faithfulness?” How about contemplating what it means to keep faith in a marriage or anything else? “Reflect today on what it means to be faithful child of God.”

He said this just a couple of Augusts ago. I know because during years of Cape Cod summer vacations, my cousin and I used to scout out where Father Patrick would say daily or Sunday Mass. We were, basically, groupies. We wanted more of his wit and wisdom, his Tipperary brogue, his familiar opening to his sermons, ”My Dear Friends.” A compact and wiry man, he kept his good looks well into old age. We wanted more of his grin.

During many of those vacation Masses — at Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of Hope, or Our Lady of the Assumption nearby — I took notes on his sermons. Today I wish I took more notes. Father Patrick died of cancer June 28. He was 86.

“How many of us are converts of Father Patrick?” asked the Reverend Mark Hession, once Tarrant’s pastor, delivering Father Patrick’s funeral homily.

“I converted two years ago because of him,” said Janie Barber of Hyannis Port, who invited Father Patrick for breakfast or lunch at least once a week. “He used to make little jokes all the time. He was just adorable. Something about him just made me want to be part of his life.”

Her husband Sam Barber, the renowned Cape Cod artist, painted a nearly life-size portrait of Father Patrick in emerald green vestments.

“I saw in him,” said Barber, “a holy man.”

“If I closed my eyes to imagine what a priest was or should be, he would be the person I’d think of,” said Our Lady of Hope parishioner Maryellen Loucks. “The ideal.”

“Father had been called to the senator’s bedside to administer the final blessing,” said former US Sen. Paul Kirk Jr. about Father Patrick and Senator Ted Kennedy, whose seat Kirk was appointed to fill. In his eulogy for Father Patrick, Kirk said he remembered first seeing Patrick Tarrant when the priest was interviewed on TV after Kennedy died. “I watched this dignified, humble and seemingly saintly man,” said Kirk, “pausing to reflect on the senator’s last hours, before describing him with carefully chosen words as ‘a man of quiet prayer.’”

“You know so many people, even priests, judge each other. Father Patrick never judged anybody,” said Lisa Aubin from Our Lady of Victory. “Ever.”

Patrick Tarrant, the eldest of eight children, was born in County Cork, Ireland, and said he decided to become a priest at age 5. Shortly after his ordination, he moved to Montana and served there for 40 years. In semi-retirement, he re-located to Yarmouth, and for nearly 20 years shared the home of a dear friend and former co-worker, June McLaughlin.

He loved creating in the garden, June McLaughlin said, and having friends over for dinner. At neighborhood barbecues he was a star attraction, with believers and non-believers quizzing him about faith, the Church, and, more recently, Pope Francis.

“It’s about time,” Father Patrick would say of the pope he adored.

“On Friday afternoons, he liked his gin and tonic at 4 o’clock. I’d have one too,” McLaughlin said. “He’d say, ‘This is what I’m thinking about for tomorrow (Mass)’ and he’d chat about it out loud. He never wrote anything down. Most of the time I’d say, ‘Patrick that is so beautiful and brilliant. Don’t do anything else with it.’”

Yet he spoke, usually briefly, about the simplest messages, she said. “To love one another. To say your prayers. To be the best you can be. To use your gifts. It was never about ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘Patrick.’”

Over the years, many, many sent him notes, she said, telling him that something he preached had changed their life, even saved their life. On Saturday mornings, when he joined other priests to hear confessions in the local jail, “Patrick’s line was always the longest, and those cared for in the spirit left, literally,” Hession said, “with smiles on their faces.”

June McLaughlin said that as Father Patrick’s cancer progressed, she moved a hospital bed to a big room in her home with massive windows looking out at one of those postcard perfect, deep green, Cape Cod marshes. At high tide and full moons, the marsh often overflows. During ocean storms, there are white caps. June McLaughlin said Father Patrick loved watching the sunrise over the marsh and his gardens, one of her two cats purring at his side.

“When his focus was not good enough anymore, he showed me how to read his Breviary. And I would read it to him. He said to me on many occasions that he was not afraid to die. He wanted me also not to be afraid.” And he helped her, with ever deepening faith, to get there.

“I miss him,” she said, “very much.”