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Rev. William Henry Donahue, C.S.C., 91, died Monday (Sept. 30, 2013) at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind.
Visitation will be 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 2, 2013) at Moreau Seminary, where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be 3:30 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 3, 2013) at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home is handling the funeral arrangements.
Fr. Donahue was born on Aug. 22, 1922, in Philadelphia to John Leo and Mary (Drum) Donahue. He was the oldest of seven children. He graduated in 1940 from West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys. In September 1940 upon the advice of his aunt Sister M. Katherine, C.S.C., Fr. Donahue enrolled in Our Lady of Holy Cross Seminary for the Congregation of Holy Cross in Easton, Mass. Two years later he entered the Novitiate in North Dartmouth, Mass., and was received into the Congregation on August 15, 1942, professing his First Vows on Aug. 16, 1943. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1945 with a bachelor’s in philosophy and made his Final Vows on June 9, 1947. Fr. Donahue and was ordained on June 7, 1949, at the National Shine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where he studied theology at Holy Cross College. In the fall of 1949, he took undergraduate courses at King’s College (which had just been founded by Holy Cross just three years before in 1946) in biology, chemistry and physics in preparation for graduate school. From 1950 to 1953, he attended the Catholic University of America earning a master’s and Ph.D. in biology.
Fr. Donahue was on the faculty in the Biology Department at King’s College from 1953 to 1974. During that time he served King’s in a number of roles: vice president, chairman of the Biology Department, tenured professor, director of athletics, member of the Administrative and Academic Councils, College Senate delegate, prefect and counselor in the student residence halls and pre-professional advisor for medical, dental and other health related fields. During this time, Fr. Donahue was involved in research over the summers supported by the National Science Foundation. He had a faculty fellowship at the University of Texas (Austin) and at its Marine Institute from 1971-1972, and again in the summer of 1973. Fr. Donahue’s area of scientific research included plant ecology and marine biology; his articles were printed in a number of scientific publications. During his time at King’s College, Fr. Donahue was also involved in pastoral ministry serving as chaplain to the Sisters of Christian Charity at St. Ann’s Academy from 1960 to 1971 and serving each weekend in the four missions out of Bear Creek in the nearby Pocono Mountains.
From 1974-1989, Fr. Donahue was rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, Texas, and led the historic restoration of the Cathedral. From 1976-1986, he served on the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Austin and was also a diocesan consultor. Fr. Donahue organized the Catholic Chaplaincy program for one of the Austin’s largest hospitals, Brackenridge Hospital. As rector for the Cathedral, he also ran the marriage preparation programs.
In 1989, Fr. Donahue began his service at Pastor of Holy Family Parish in Copperas Cove, Texas, where he celebrated his 80thbirthday before leaving in 2002. Holy Family was the only Catholic parish in the city of 30,000 adjacent to Fort Hood, one of the Army’s largest installations with a population of 40,000. For a number of years, Fr. Donahue was the only priest in the parish.
In 2002, Fr. Donahue moved to Christopher Lodge, Cocoa Beach, Fla., and assisted at two local parishes. He moved to Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind., in 2007.
Over the years, Fr. Donahue also served in positions within the Congregation of Holy Cross. He was on the Boards of Trustees for Stonehill College (1965-1973) and St. Edward’s University in Austin (1977-1982). He served several terms on the Provincial Councils of both the former Eastern Province (of which he was a member) and the former Southern Province, including one term as an assistant provincial.
Fr. Donahue is survived by his four sisters, Margaret DeLisle (Florida), Dorothy Creighton (Pennsylvania), Maureen (born Mary Pat) Greenblat (Georgia) and Katherine Hanlon (Florida). His parents and two brothers, John and Conrad, are deceased.
I wish to begin by quoting from our Constitutions on “mission:”
“For many of us in Holy Cross, mission expresses itself in the education of youth in schools, colleges and universities. For others, our mission as educators takes place in parishes and other ministries
Our mission sends us across borders of every sort. Often we must make ourselves at home among more than one people or culture, reminding us again that the farther we go in giving the more we stand to receive.”
Bill Donahue was a splendid example of this Holy Cross mission. He was a teacher and researcher at the university level. He earned his credibility in the academic and administrative fields and then he received a call. This call was somewhat similar to the call of our own Holy Cross religious in South India who are entitled the “St. Thomas Christians” those Christians who claim that their heritage was initiated and influenced by St. Thomas the Apostle. Our Holy Cross confreres there decided to go on a permanent “internal mission” in India by assisting their Holy Cross colleagues in North East India in order to establish a center of academic excellence, even like Fr. Sorin did in the United States. These Indian Holy Cross Religious have made a permanent commitment to this project this “internal” mission of the Congregation.
Like these religious who responded to a call, so too Bill Donahue answered his call from Pennsylvania to Texas. He too was a missioner an “internal” one. In Austin, he led the historic restoration of the Cathedral where he later became the rector. From there he also guided marriage preparation courses. Later he became the pastor of Holy Family Parish in Copperas Cove. Bill had truly become an “educator in the faith.”
Later, when Bill came to Holy Cross House, I would visit him there together with other classmates. He would ask me disarming questions such as: “When are you coming to Holy Cross House? You certainly look old enough!” Then,”Do you speak Spanish.” I would reply: “Yes. I spent eight years in Chile.” Then he would say: “And you call that speaking Spanish.” At that point I felt that it was better to quit when I was behind.
Yes, we ’49ers have been missioners both within and without of our country. In our class we also have Timm, Gillespie and Bride going to Bangladesh. We have Archbishop McGrath, Carlos Delaney and myself going to Latin America.
For all of us of the class of 1949, as our Constitution on mission says, our broader experience has allowed us to appreciate various cultures and to also realize that no culture of this world cannot be our abiding home. Bill, you now have gone to your abiding home. Only four of us of 21 are left and we ask that you prepare for us our permanent reunion in our abiding home. We thank you for your ministry and look forward to our next class reunions. Amen.