James A. McDonald, O.S.A.

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1877 – 1941 (January 13)

James Aloysius McDonald, son of James McDonald and Catherin Neilon, was born in Andover, Massachusetts, on February 8, 1877. His primary education was received in his native town after which he entered Villanova College where he distinguished himself academically and played fullback on the varsity football team. At the completion of his college courses he entered the novitiate on February 2, 1897, professed simple vows on February 3, 1898 and solemn vows on May 29, 1901. He studied theology at Villanova and also took courses at the University of Pennsylvania in Botany, Physiology, Zoology, and Chemistry from 1898 to 190. He was ordained to the priesthood by our Archbishop Sebastian Martinelli, O.S.A. at the Apostolic Delegation in Washington, D.C., on September 29, 1901.

Father McDonald was first assigned to the faculty of Villanova College. From 1903 until 1906, he assisted in building up Colegio San Agustin in Havana, Cuba. Returning to the States he served as assistant pastor at Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr from 1906 until 1910, and then as sub-prior at Saint Mary’s Parish, Lawrence. Here he had charge of the Saint Rita district, was spiritual director of the Holy Name Society which he brought to a membership of over one thousand, and in 1912 instituted the Saint Mary’s Cadets. 

Father McDonald was transferred to Immaculate Conception Parish, Hoosick Falls, NY, in 1916, from which station he enlisted for service in the army as chaplain and held a captain’s rank. During this period, he also was also a member of the Province Mission Band, preaching missions from New York to California, between 1916 and 1920.

In 1920, he was sent to Detroit, MI, to establish a new parish, Saint Augustine, where he built a church, a school, and a residence. In 1926 he was asked to organize a new parish at Grosse Pointe Park, MI, Saint Clare of Montefalco, where he built a church, school, friary and convent. From 1929-1935 he was prior and pastor of Saint Mary’s Parish, Lawrence. Having himself labored at the age of 13 in the mills of that city, he utilized his practical knowledge and considerable conciliatory skills to help iron out the difficulties in connection with the 1931 textile troubles. From 1935 to 1941 he was prior and pastor at Saint Laurence O’Toole Parish in the same city.

His kindly disposition and affable manner, aided by a robust constitution, enabled Father McDonald to accomplish a tremendous amount of good during his apostolate. His influence extended beyond the parish to municipal and civic affairs as well. Stricken suddenly, he died in Lawrence on January 13, 1941, and was buried with full military honors in the Augustinian plot at Saint Mary’s Cemetery Lawrence, MA.