Published April 4, 2014
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNS)—Retired Bishop Andrew J. McDonald, known throughout Arkansas as the bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock for 28 years, died April 1 at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly in Palatine, Ill. He was 90.
Before the transfer of the bishop’s body to Little Rock, a special visitation, rosary and funeral Mass will take place at St. Joseph Home in Palatine.
His body will be received at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock the evening of April 7, followed by a vigil service with rosary. The cathedral will remain open all night for prayer and visitation.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Andrew April 8, followed by interment in the cathedral crypt.
Bishop McDonald served the Catholic Church for 65 years. He was a priest of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., ministering there from 1948 to 1972, and was bishop of Little Rock from 1972 to 2000, the year he retired.
After retirement, he began a new ministry in 2002 as chaplain for the Little Sisters of the Poor and the elderly residents at St. Joseph’s Home in Palatine. In 2013, he retired as chaplain but remained at the home as a resident.
Andrew Joseph McDonald was born in Savannah to James and Theresa McDonald Oct. 24, 1923, the 11th of 12 children. When he was 13, he entered the minor seminary of St. Charles College in Catonsville, Md., to begin his studies for the priesthood.
In 1948, he graduated from St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained a priest May 8. Shortly after ordination, he began studying canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, later transferring to the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where in 1951 he received his doctorate in canon law.
In the Diocese of Savannah, his parish assignments included being pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah. But between 1952 and 1972, he also served in various diocesan roles, including as judicial vicar, chancellor and vicar general. He was named a monsignor in 1956.
He was ordained a bishop Sept. 5, 1972, in Savannah and was installed as the fifth bishop of Little Rock two days later at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
He traveled throughout Arkansas as the bishop for 28 years, using his humor, preaching and concern for others to shepherd the statewide diocese. During his episcopacy, there were many accomplishments and new initiatives as he implemented the changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council.
Focusing in particular on the increased participation of the laity, he encouraged the establishment of numerous lay movements, including Cursillo, Search, Catholic charismatic renewal, Marriage Encounter, Retrouvaille, youth ministry and campus ministry. He established several diocesan advisory boards, including the Council for Black Catholics, the Clergy Welfare Board, the Council for Women Religious and the Building Commission.
He worked to provide affordable housing for the elderly—Good Shepherd Home in Little Rock and Christopher homes throughout the state. He spoke and worked for the poor, supporting the establishment of Catholic Charities of Arkansas. He was active in ecumenical and interreligious efforts and worked with the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
He reached out to the Vietnamese and Hispanic Catholics who moved into the diocese.
Catholic schools and religious education were always important to Bishop McDonald. He supported the growth and development of Little Rock Scripture Study, continuing education for clergy and restoration of the permanent diaconate. He always encouraged vocations to the diaconate, priesthood and religious life.
During his tenure, the Cathedral of St. Andrew and St. John Center in Little Rock were renovated, and St. John Manor was opened as a residence for retired diocesan priests.
Of all his efforts, none were more important to Bishop McDonald than his work for the unborn. He was a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pro-life committee, participated in the Arkansas March for Life and inaugurated an annual Mass for life.
In 1982, he wrote to Blessed Teresa of Kolkata. She visited Little Rock and agreed to send Missionaries of Charity to operate Abba House, a home for pregnant women and their children. He opened Catholic Adoptions Services and supported implementing Project Rachel, an outreach to women suffering from the consequences of abortion.
Bishop McDonald loved being with people. He was a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus and a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Over the years, he led many pilgrimages to Rome, Lourdes, Ireland and the Holy Land. He enjoyed playing a quick game of golf and keeping up with his favorite football teams. He was known for his humor, his smile, his laugh. He had many friends among bishops and priests around the country.
Bishop McDonald loved the clergy, religious and laity of Arkansas.
He loved his home of Savannah and was proud of his family and his Irish heritage. Bishop McDonald will be missed and remembered in prayer by many.
Preceded in death by his parents and his 11 siblings, he is survived by one sister-in-law, Julia McDonald of Atlanta, and 78 nieces and nephews spanning four generations.