Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Archbishop-Emeritus John Francis Donoghue Dies

By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff Writer | Published November 10, 2011

Archbishop-emeritus John Francis Donoghue, the fifth archbishop of the Atlanta Archdiocese, died Friday, Nov. 11, at the age of 83.

Archbishop Donoghue served as archbishop of Atlanta from Aug. 19, 1993, until Dec. 9, 2004, when Pope John Paul II accepted his retirement due to age.

When he was appointed archbishop of Atlanta, Archbishop Donoghue made the center of his pastoral work among Catholics to renew understanding of and devotion to the Eucharist as the real presence of Christ, which is a central dogma of the Catholic faith.

He initiated a Eucharistic Renewal, which inspired renewed teaching on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist through many forms, including lay seminars where individuals shared their faith stories. He also initiated chapels for adoration of the Eucharist, opening the first at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta in June 1994. The chapel has had perpetual adoration there for over 17 years. Over 70 parishes of the archdiocese have prayer before the Eucharist regularly, eight with perpetual adoration chapels.

Archbishop Donoghue expressed the hope in 1994 that these perpetual adoration chapels would bring “a grace hitherto unfelt in the archdiocese.”

Flowing from this renewal, a Eucharistic Congress is held in Atlanta yearly that provides multilingual and multicultural faith teaching to gatherings of 20,000 to 30,000. It is the longest continually running Eucharistic Congress in the United States and believed to be the largest in attendance.

Archbishop Donoghue also believed deeply in the importance of Catholic schools and fostered efforts to build new Catholic schools, including two archdiocesan high schools and three archdiocesan elementary schools.

Archbishop Donoghue also was devoted to the pro-life cause, frequently speaking on the teaching of the church on the dignity of human life from conception until natural death and participating in prayer vigils.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, the current prelate of the Atlanta Archdiocese, said, “Archbishop Donoghue was a much beloved figure, a dear friend, a brother bishop. His health has been failing … for a good part of the year.”

Speaking at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Archbishop Gregory noted, “There is also the spirit of hope that he is at peace with the Lord and he will be rewarded for his extraordinary, long and generous service to the church.”

Archbishop Gregory spoke of his predecessor’s legacy in responding to the growth of this “great archdiocese.” In addition to the opening of new Catholic schools, Archbishop Gregory said, “He made respect for life a central part of his ministry. He did it quite effectively.”

He added that Archbishop Donoghue was “always encouraging and supportive” of him.

He said, “The death of a beloved figure like John F. Donoghue is a moment of sadness. But we are a people of hope.”

The son of Irish immigrants who met and married in Washington, D.C., he said he knew in high school that he wanted to become a Catholic priest. He was able to devote 56 years of his life after his priestly ordination to serving the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., in Charlotte, N.C., and in Atlanta. He was a bishop for 27 of those years.

Archbishop Donoghue was born Aug. 9, 1928, one of four sons of Daniel and Rose (Ryan) Donoghue, and raised in northwest Washington. Following study at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and Roland Park, Md., where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in theology, he was ordained a priest of the Washington Archdiocese on June 4, 1955 by then-Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle. While he often said that he expected to serve all his life as a parish priest, he was asked in 1964 to study for a licentiate in canon law and then assigned to the archbishop’s office. For the next 18 years, he served on the staffs of three successive Washington cardinals: Cardinal O’Boyle, Cardinal William Baum and Cardinal James Hickey. From 1972 until 1983, he was the chancellor, vicar general and secretary for support services of the Archdiocese of Washington.  In 1984, he was also named moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of Washington, where he served until appointed by Pope John Paul II as bishop of Charlotte, N.C.

He was ordained and installed as Charlotte’s second bishop on Dec. 18, 1984. Among the accomplishments in his tenure as bishop of Charlotte were the first synod of the diocese, which held three sessions from 1986 to 1987; the reorganization of the Catholic schools into a regional structure; an emphasis on evangelization directed toward inactive Catholics and the unchurched; and the opening of a Catholic newspaper, The Catholic News & Herald, in 1991. He played a leading role in the development of the North Carolina Lutheran-Catholic Covenant signed in 1991 by the Dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh and the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

In the Atlanta Archdiocese, he succeeded Archbishop James P. Lyke, OFM, who died Dec. 27, 1992, of cancer after only two years in office.

Archbishop Donoghue said the day of his Atlanta appointment, “I hope that I’m going to be here for a very long time … that I will be here until I retire.”

Pope John Paul II spoke to him and told him to “be very kind” to the people of the archdiocese and “to try and bring peace and reconciliation.”

When he opened perpetual adoration at the Cathedral on June 5, 1994, he said, “It is our fervent hope that by our efforts and our devotion, the peace of God, who lives with us in our tabernacles through the life of His son, may penetrate deeply into the fabric of our society and bring our community to a new awareness of its own worth, and a new sense of promise and direction in all its ideals and actions.”

Archbishop Donoghue’s body will lie in state at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 353 Peachtree St., N.E., Atlanta, from 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, until 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17. Viewing times are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Thursday. A Vespers service will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. followed by recitation of the rosary at 7 p.m. On Thursday, Nov. 17, at 10 a.m., a procession will proceed to the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, N.E., Atlanta, where the funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Arlington Memorial Park, Sandy Springs.

Archbishop Donoghue was predeceased by two of his brothers, Daniel and Patrick Donoghue. He is survived by his brother, Ed Donoghue, his sister-in-law, Vickie Donoghue, and by 20 nieces and nephews.

Memorial contributions may be made to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home, 760 Pollard Blvd., S.W., Atlanta, GA 30315; Missionaries of Charity, Gift of Grace House, 995 St. Charles Ave., Atlanta, GA 30306; Visitation Monastery, 2055 Ridgedale Drive, Snellville, GA 30278; or Little Sisters of the Poor, 4200 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20017.