By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published November 24, 2011
The poignant sound of bagpipes rang through the cool Georgia morning air as bishops and priests, family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Archbishop John F. Donoghue, retired archbishop of Atlanta, at a funeral Mass on Thursday, Nov. 17.
Wreaths made of magnolia leaves with black ribbons adorned the entryways of the Cathedral of Christ the King as hundreds of clergy from Georgia and neighboring states, came to recognize the legacy of Archbishop Donoghue.
In August 1993, Archbishop Donoghue was installed as the fifth archbishop of the Atlanta Archdiocese and during his tenure he was responsible for the opening of additional Catholic schools, encouraging perpetual Eucharistic adoration chapels and establishing the annual Eucharistic Congress, a gathering that draws nearly 30,000 Catholics from across the Southeast. Prior to his arrival in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Archbishop Donoghue served as the second bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., for nine years.
“He saw what had to be done and he did it,” said Joseph Kane, who attended the funeral Mass with his wife, Connie, of the late archbishop’s achievements. Kane’s brother, Msgr. Thomas Kane, went through seminary with the young Donoghue and was also in attendance at the funeral.
“He was a friend of the family,” added Kane, who has been a parishioner at All Saints Church, Dunwoody, for 25 years. “He will be very dearly missed.”
A stately procession, with over 50 deacons, some 150 priests and a dozen bishops and abbots, walked solemnly into the church, as the Cathedral Choir led the assembly in singing “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus.” Priest concelebrants included Msgr. Joseph Corbett, Msgr. Edward Dillon, Msgr. David Talley, Msgr. Kane, Father Francis McNamee and Father Thomas Hennessy.
Women religious, including Missionaries of Charity, Hawthorne Dominican sisters, and Sister Margaret McAnoy, IHM, vicar for religious, attended, along with staff from the Chancery who worked with the late archbishop and many Catholic school teachers and principals.
Family members followed the casket into the sanctuary, many fighting back tears as they prepared to say a final goodbye.
The late archbishop had planned his own funeral Mass, down to the prayers, readings and the traditional, timeless music. He also asked that no eulogy be given at the Mass.
Father Hennessy, chaplain of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home in Atlanta, provided an emotional homily about the late archbishop and his relationship with Archbishop Donoghue.
“The man we bury today was my bishop, my brother and my friend,” said Father Hennessy, who took care to mention Archbishop Donoghue’s strong stand for pro-life issues and his unrelenting love of the Eucharist.
“He built schools to educate; he established Eucharistic adoration to guide others to the real presence of our Eucharistic Lord,” Father Hennessy continued. “He fought the good fight.”
“No one I’ve ever known in my life was more worthy than Archbishop John Francis Donoghue to hear those beautiful, sublime words of our Lord: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of thy Lord,’” the priest said.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory presided at the Mass and was joined on the altar by Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama and visiting bishops from Georgia, North and South Carolina and Alabama. Nearly half of the sanctuary was full of ordained men, making the prayer of consecration significantly more audible than at an ordinary Mass.
At the end of the funeral Mass, Archbishop Gregory took a moment to thank the family members of Archbishop Donoghue, as well as his brother priests and bishops.
“Thank you for helping to shape and form, and most importantly, to love him so that he could love all of us so effectively,” Archbishop Gregory said. “All of us, no matter what our background, no matter what our office in the church, praise God for giving us such a fine and loving man to be friend, priest and bishop.”
Following the procession, the assembly of friends, family and clergy gathered outdoors as an honor guard for the passage of the casket.
Many joined the procession to Arlington Cemetery to witness the burial. The Knights of Columbus and Knights of Peter Claver, along with nearly 400 students from Holy Spirit Preparatory School, lined the walkway as the pallbearers carried the casket to the burial plot.
Hats and coats were pulled tight as the wind whipped through the quiet, peaceful memorial park. Bishop Zarama led the final prayers before family members left flowers on the casket and it was lowered into the ground in an area where many archbishops and priests of the Atlanta Archdiocese have been buried.
While it was difficult for many to say goodbye, it was hard not to appreciate the life of love and service that was lived by Archbishop Donoghue. The life and ministry of Archbishop Donoghue reached clergy and laity alike. His humble leadership was an example to priests and bishops.
“Archbishop John Donoghue was a great leader during his nine years of service in the Diocese of Charlotte,” wrote Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte, N.C. “He saw that rapid growth was going to take place in the Diocese of Charlotte, and he prepared for it. His devotion to the Eucharist and perpetual adoration, as well as his guidance in the establishment of the Eucharistic Congress, are testaments to his service to God that will live on.”
“He was a very gentle and kind leader, Archbishop Donoghue,” said Bishop David B. Thompson, bishop-emeritus of Charleston, S.C. “He was patient and understanding. He listened and was willing to take advice. He was strong in his faith.”
Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., of Savannah, said, “Archbishop Donoghue installed me at my first pastorate at St. Philip Benizi in 1995. I will always remember him for his gentleness and graciousness and his love for the Eucharist.”
Bishop J. Kevin Boland, bishop-emeritus of Savannah, also remembered the late prelate fondly. “Archbishop Donoghue ordained me at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist as the 13th bishop of Savannah on April 18, 1995. The archbishop was a great friend. He was a gracious host. His lifelong devotion for the Church was an example for all to follow.”
Another bishop of the province, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, said of Archbishop Donoghue, “He certainly was a strong presence in the province of Atlanta being the bishop of Charlotte and archbishop of Atlanta. He was known for being very attentive to the priests … and developing a strong presbyterate in both dioceses. He was certainly a good holy priest and a fine bishop. We’re going to miss him.”
“He had a holy simplicity,” said Father Tim Hepburn, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. “He had a few things that he really set his heart and mind to that the Lord told him to do. And he did them with great trust and faith.”
Kathi Stearns, who worked closely with Archbishop Donoghue in Atlanta and served as his vice chancellor for special projects, said, “I consider my life blessed to have crossed paths with a spiritual leader like Archbishop Donoghue. His sincerity, generosity and passion to serve his flock and his Lord made him a stalwart defender of the Catholic faith and a beloved shepherd of this archdiocese. Being here today is my way to say good-bye and thank you to him for his years of loyal service to Atlanta.”
She spoke of his personal influence on her life, saying, “Today not only has this archdiocese lost a spiritual leader, but I have lost a friend who touched my heart and taught me that the word ‘faith’ wasn’t just a noun; it was more like a verb—something we needed to live and communicate every day of our lives.”
“Archbishop Donoghue’s life exemplified his chosen coat of arms, ‘To live in Christ Jesus,’” said Olga C. de Goizueta, philanthropist and co-founder and chair of the Executive Committee of The Goizueta Foundation and a generous supporter of the archbishop who shared his belief in Catholic education. “We have been blessed by his ministry to the Catholic Church as he generously answered God’s call. Now he has entered a new life with Christ, the shepherd of souls, who has called him home.”
Many who came to the funeral Mass said that they cherished the memory of Archbishop Donoghue.
“I’m here to celebrate the homecoming of our late archbishop,” said Pablo Gora, a parishioner at St. Joseph Church, Marietta, and a Knight of Columbus. “He was a model priest and a model bishop.”
Regina Vivanco, parishioner at St. Monica Church in Duluth, also came to honor the life and legacy that the late archbishop left. Archbishop Donoghue ordained her two brothers, Fathers Kevin Peek and Joseph Peek, who both serve in the Atlanta Archdiocese.
“We will miss him,” she said. “He was a great spiritual leader. He led us and gave us hope. He is irreplaceable.”
Vanessa Pinkston of Decatur was crying as she waited for the funeral Mass to begin. She said she had worked as household help at the Cathedral rectory a number of years ago, when the late Msgr. Tom Kenny was rector, and then as school nurse at Christ the King before she moved away.
“I was confirmed a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 1998, along with my 7-year-old daughter,” she said. “(The archbishop) brought me into the Church. He encouraged me. He was an excellent friend. While I celebrate his home-going, I am beyond grief at his passing. And I am happy and blessed to have come into his presence and his friendship. I will miss him immeasurably.”
“All that time, Archbishop Donoghue watched over my steps,” she said. “I never ran into a brick wall that he did not remove.”
Mary Elkins, a long-time friend of the archbishop, said the vigil and funeral liturgy were full of images and kindnesses she treasures.
At the gravesite, she noted that Missionaries of Charity helped to shovel the dirt into the archbishop’s grave.
“The Missionaries of Charity offered their last act of charity to the archbishop,” she said.
And at the conclusion of the funeral Mass, scores of priests formed a cordon around the casket and sang the “Salve Regina.”
“To hear all the priests sing that, knowing it was one of his favorite songs” moved her to tears, Elkins said.
“There were tears of joy, knowing he was with God,” she said.