The Genuine Big-hearted Irish Priest
The Genuine Big-hearted Irish Priest

The Genuine Big-hearted Irish Priest

a My Dunrovin Story about Fr. Jack Donahue

Fr. Donahue kisses the altar during the opening of Mass.

A couple years prior to the beginning of the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in 1962, a young whippersnapper named Jack Donahue was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. For sure, he must have seen the trauma that happened as priests, sisters, and brothers left the Catholic Church during those turbulent years after Vatican II. But that is not Fr. Jack’s story. An Irishman with a twinkle in his eye, he has his own story to tell.

Dunrovin gratefully announces Fr. Jack Donahue as the 2019 Brother I. Damian Award recipient. This award is given annually to a person who shows extraordinary support for the dream of Brother I. Damian, a dream to bring youth on transformative Catholic retreats at Christian Brothers Retreat Centers. 

Fr. Jack’s story at Dunrovin begins before Dunrovin existed. He remembers meeting Brother Felix Scanlan, principal of Cretin High School, who built the Retreat Center, which opened in 1964. Fr. Jack speaks fondly of his days as a “Brother’s Boy” at Cretin High School in the 1950s. He enjoyed the De La Salle Christian Brothers who taught there and remained in friendship with them. It was natural that during his assignment at the Church of St. Michael’s in Stillwater (1960) early in his priesthood, Fr. Jack visited the Christian Brothers who lived just up the road from St. Michael’s –  at Dunrovin. “I went to visit them and brought some of the high school kids along to go to the pool. That swimming pool, visiting the Brothers, those were some of the most relaxing days of my life,” Fr. Jack reminisces about earlier days.

No wonder! There probably wasn’t much relaxation during the 50+ years of Fr. Jack’s priestly work as a military chaplain and pastor of several parishes in the eastern and northern Twin Cities area. Parishioners remember his hearty laugh, his teaching style, and his call to be genuine before God. They also remember his big-heartedness. Even now, almost 60 years after ordination, Fr. Jack continues to actively and generously work during his retirement.

Hmmm, perhaps it is his story after all. Fr. Jack Donahue – a man faithful to his call to priesthood after almost 60 years, the call to be a faithful, charitable, relational man, walking through life’s triumphs and tragedies with his flock. Here at Dunrovin, we think Vatican II would be quite proud of this good man. Thank you, dearest Lord, for Fr. Jack Donahue, and please bless him.

Fr. Donahue served on the Dunrovin Board of Directors from 2012 to 2018, where he gave of his time, resources, connections, and offered the sacraments to retreatants. Today Fr. Jack lives east of the St. Croix River, on a plot of country land where he enjoys horses, birds, and the beauty of God’s creation.