Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C.

April 14, 1936-August 24, 2017

NOTRE DAME, IN –Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C., 81, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind. on August 24, 2017.

Watch Fr. McNeill’s Funeral Mass here on August 30, 2017.

He was born on April 14, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois to Donald T. and Katherine (Bennett) McNeill. He attended Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Elementary School in Winnetka, IL, and New Trier High School. He graduated from High School in 1954 and received a B.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1958.

After graduation, both Fr. McNeill and his brother, Tom, delayed their military commitments and studied in Vienna after visiting many European countries. After serving most of his commitment in the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant, he felt the call to explore a possible vocation, and was received into the Congregation of Holy Cross on Sept. 22, 1959. He made his First Profession of Vows on Sept. 23, 1960.

He was then assigned to Rome for his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University during the Second Vatican Council. He professed his Final Vows on October 10, 1964 and was ordained a Holy Cross Priest in Rome on Dec. 18, 1965.

Fr. McNeill returned to Notre Dame in 1966 and had the privilege of taking a course in Pastoral Theology taught by Fr. Henri Nouwen, which was offered to Holy Cross Religious. Before the end of that year, he was encouraged by Fr. Nouwen and Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. who was then President of Notre Dame to study for a doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary in Pastoral Theology. This educational experience provided him with a continuing commitment to experiential and interdisciplinary learning from a faith perspective at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Theology. He was also encouraged to explore Holy Cross international collaboration and challenges in Latin America and Africa. In 1983 he established Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns and served as its Executive Director until 2002. He then served at Notre Dame High School in Niles, IL from 2002-2003, as well as serving with the Brothers of Holy Cross in San Antonio, TX. Fr. McNeill moved to Holy Cross House in 2012. Preceding him in death are his parents, Donald and Katherine McNeill, and his aunt, Agnes McNeill Donohue. He is survived by brothers Thomas (Ingrid) McNeill and Robert (Martha) McNeill, as well as many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, IN, where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 at 3:30 p.m. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame, and a reception hosted by The Center for Social Concerns will take place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Remick Commons on the campus of Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online at

Wake Eulogy by Fr. Paul Kollman, C.S.C.
Aug. 29, 2017

Micah 6:8
“You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.”

I know I represent many in Holy Cross, at Notre Dame, and at the Center for Social for Social Concerns in passing along our sympathy at the death of Don to his brothers, Tom and Bob, and their families. Your brother, your uncle, your in-law was a steadfast friend and companion, a generous priest and brother, a skilled teacher and mentor, and an influential scholar and leader. We are sad to lose such a strong and faithful witness to the love of God.

And I also represent many in wanting to thank God for Don, who sought to receive his life as a gift and to share it as a gift. Thank you, Almighty One, for the grace you poured into his life, and for helping him use his freedom so well in sharing his gifts.

What a full and rich life Father Don McNeill lived! He enjoyed an interesting and warm home in Chicago, earned academic achievement and gained athletic prowess, received opportunities for enriching education in Chicago, at Notre Dame, in Rome, at Princeton, not to mention in Latin America and Africa, where he met God’s faithful and deepened his call. Don taught thousands how to know God’s love, and to love God by loving their neighbor, especially the least among us. He embodied servant leadership at Notre Dame and in Chicago. He built and appreciated rich friendships with so many.

Don inspired many of us in Holy Cross and at Notre Dame by embodying the invitation we heard in Micah, one of his favorite Scriptures: acting justly, loving tenderly, and walking humbly with his God. These were guiding principles for Don from the Word of God. We rejoice tonight at how he acted justly, loved tenderly, and walked humbly with God.

Don acted justly. Don knew all he’d been given—family, health, education, natural gifts of leadership. And he gained with that awareness a deep sense of responsibility. Helped by many, he saw that his life must serve the cause of justice, a virtue he embraced in all its richness.

Don’s view of justice was shaped by the radical call of the Gospel embodied in the Beatitudes, the Catholic social tradition, and the deepest instincts of our Congregation of Holy Cross.

In discerning the call to justice, Don was aided by many: Fr. Ted Hesburgh, Fr. Jack Egan, Fr. Henri Nouwen, as well as Holy Cross friends like Claude Pomerleau and John Dunne. Colleagues and friends at Notre Dame helped hear the call to justice: companions like Mary Ann and the late Jim Roemer, Bill and Ann Sexton, the late Reg Weissert, Sr. Judith Ann Beattie. Students sharpened his appreciation for the call to justice: and at the risk of overlooking many important ones, let me mention here Andrea Smith Shappell, Stacy Hennessy, Mary Meg McCarthy, and Charlie Kenney, as well as current Center colleagues.

Don’s zeal for justice was nurtured by listening carefully—first to companions like many here, and he also listened to the yearning and striving of those who suffered the lack of justice in their lives, and who thirsted for something better. Don let his own heart hurt with them, his own intellect pursue solutions with them for their plight. Don’s efforts to help Notre Dame respond to such injustice were long and arduous. Eventually, with the help of many, he saw how to create one faith-based and critically informed response to such injustice at Notre Dame: namely the Center for Social Concerns. Those of us who have served at the Center so appreciate the ways it embodies Fr. Don’s vision, seeking to inculcate compassion and a thirst for justice on our campus and wherever Notre Dame becomes present.

To embrace justice for Don, beginning in the 1960s and continuing to his last breath, meant finding all sorts of allies and companions in and beyond Notre Dame. It also meant facing conflict. Today’s feast—the Beheading of John the Baptist—reminds us that speaking the truth can get you in trouble, as it did the first person to discern Christ in the womb of Mary (fortunately, Don avoided such a fate! ). But Don did suffer strained friendships due to his commitments to justice, unavoidable in a complex and powerful setting like ND.

Despite this, besides striving to act justly, Don also loved tenderly. He came from a home where love formed him, and he shared that love all his life. His pursuit of justice was always motivated by love, and he enjoyed giving voice to others out of love for them. Even when challenging others, Don did so lovingly so that they could walk the path of self-discovery through self-transcendence and self-gift.

Don had so many great friendships with so many: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, educated simply or extensively. Friendships were at the heart of his life. I had the good fortune to sit in front of Don at football games over the past decade or so, and it was heartening to see him and Greg Green and Jim Flanigan enjoy the games together. And he so loved tenderly his family, celebrating his nieces and nephews and their achievements, as well as those of the generations that have followed. His brothers were companions of the heart for Don, and relied on you and knew he could. And Don loved us in Holy Cross, sisters and brothers shaped by vows together.

Finally, Don walked humbly with God. In walking humbly with God, Don did so mindful of his gifts, and he also had a keen sense of his sinfulness, which he listened to carefully. His own perceptions of unworthiness (a gift of the Holy Spirit) at times were in tension with those gifts. For instance, when he had a new vision or insight he sought to share it eagerly, almost impatiently, and yet also at the same time—and with equal earnestness he wanted to listen to others. That is a narrow path indeed, to burn with conviction and also desire to be open to others. Often in conversing with Don, I’d feel in him a longing to bring me to accept in idea he had, all the while he wrestled with his reluctance to impose his idea. Humility is a complex balance, especially for someone of many talents. After all, how do we join together Jesus’ call to deny ourselves and carry our cross, the urgings of our own heart’s desires, and the need to follow our gifts? Humility needs all three, and Don walked that balancing act all his life.

In the end, I think of Don’s easy and infectious laughter—the kind of unself-conscious laughter he so enjoyed and which lit up his whole being when he embraced it—as a sign of his humility. It was laughter that invited others in, made others join the humor.

Acting justly, loving tenderly, walking humbly with God. Rest in peace, Don. Rest in justice, love, and humility. Rest, good and faithful servant. And thank you for sharing your zeal for justice, your tender love, and your humble walk with us.

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