By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published June 16, 2005
Congratulations at the Eucharistic Congress abounded as Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue marked the 50th anniversary of his priesthood on June 4, the day of the event. The fact that these two occasions coincided was particularly apt, as the former archbishop had been the catalyst for the Congress and a devoted supporter of eucharistic adoration in the Archdiocese of Atlanta during his 12-year tenure in Georgia.
From the beginning of the day, when Father Ricardo Bailey brought the crowd to a rousing ovation for Archbishop Donoghue during opening ceremonies at the Congress, to steadfast prayers for the recently retired archbishop during the closing Mass at the Congress, those in attendance commemorated the half-century milestone of the man who had ably guided the archdiocese from 1993 to 2004.
Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the papal nuncio to the United States, flew into Atlanta to share in the day’s festivities. At the closing Mass, he presented a special papal blessing to Archbishop Donoghue from Pope Benedict XVI, commemorating his golden jubilee and read a letter from the pope congratulating him and specifically mentioning his promotion of vocations and support of Catholic education.
“We accompany him with our prayers,” said the pontiff.
The retired archbishop’s two brothers and nieces also attended the Congress to share the special day with him, as did three bishops of the Atlanta Province, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman of Raleigh, N.C., Bishop Robert Baker of Charleston, S.C., and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, N.C. Savannah Bishop J. Kevin Boland was unable to attend due to ordinations in his diocese.
At a dinner following the Congress, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory honored Archbishop Donoghue with heartfelt words of thanks for his capable leadership in building up the Catholic community in Georgia. Archbishop Donoghue, he said, “had the vision and unvarying aspiration to bring people to the Eucharist, to educate people on what we are saying when we say we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and to develop in them a burning love and desire to be in relationship with our Lord. Today, ten archdiocesan parishes offer perpetual adoration and still other parishes have plans to do so. Many of them already offer weekly or monthly adoration. We would like to recognize your efforts, Archbishop Donoghue, for rekindling in us a strong love for the Eucharist.”
Thanking Archbishop Donoghue for his “faithfulness to his priestly office,” Archbishop Gregory presented the retired leader of Atlanta’s flock with a surprise gift of a trip “down under” to Australia, a place Archbishop Donoghue has always wanted to visit.
The retired archbishop, who says that he is busier than ever, appeared to be both surprised and thrilled by the generous gift. In an extemporaneous speech to the crowd gathered at the dinner, he shared some of the special moments of his priesthood, including the day he hung up on the papal nuncio when he called on the phone to tell him that he was the new archbishop of Atlanta. With his trademark sparkling wit, he proclaimed himself to be “startled” by the various milestones in his ministry as a priest, while he humbly thanked everyone who had supported him through the years.
Archbishop Donoghue, a native of Washington, D.C., was ordained to the priesthood in St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington on June 4, 1955. He served as assistant pastor of several parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington from 1955 to 1964 and then was asked to study canon law and to serve on the staff of the archdiocesan chancery where he became chancellor and vicar general. In 1970 he was given the rank of monsignor. In 1984 he was named bishop of Charlotte, N.C., where he served until his appointment to the Archdiocese of Atlanta. On Aug. 19, 1993 he was installed as the fifth archbishop of Atlanta. On Dec. 9, 2004, Pope John Paul II accepted his retirement at the age of 76.
Archbishop Donoghue initiated a perpetual adoration chapel at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta, which opened on the feast of Corpus Christi in 1994. He began a Eucharistic Renewal in the archdiocese in 1996, which included a Corpus Christi celebration each year that has now evolved into the weekend celebration of a Eucharistic Congress. This is the 10th year for the celebration, as well as his 50th jubilee.