Michael J. O’Donnell, O.S.A.

1905 – 1969 (March 6)

Michael Joseph O’Donnell, son of Michael J. O’Donnell and Mary Morley, was born on February 7, 1905, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was baptized in Saint Columba Church there, and received his early education at that parish school. When his family moved to Atlantic City, Michael continued his studies at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Elementary School. In September, 1919, he entered Villanova Preparatory School where, upon graduation, he was awarded the General Excellence Medal. On June 21, 1923, he was accepted as a novice at Villanova, professed simple vows on June 22, 1924, and solemn vows three years later. In June 1927, he received a B.A. degree from Villanova College and then studied theology at Augustinian College in Washington, D.C., receiving an M.A. in June, 1931 from The Catholic University. On June 10, 1930, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John M. McNamara, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1931, Father O’Donnell was assigned to Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, where he taught Greek and Algebra. On July 6, 1932, he was transferred to Saint Mary’s Hall, Villanova, where he taught English to the Augustinian formation students and served as community treasurer. From 1938 to 1941, he assumed an additional assignment as Director of the Augustinian Seminary Guild. He worked in Villanova’s Turf & Tinsel Club, was moderator of Shamokinaki, a fund raiser for the Augustinian Missions, and served as archivist for Villanova University. In July, 1942, Father O’Donnell became a military chaplain, with his first assignment at the Coast Guard Training Station, Manhattan Beach, N.Y. and later, was sent to the Pacific as a Navy “Sea Bee.” He served as a Navy Chaplain, morale officer, librarian and recreation officer until January 19, 1946, when he was discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander, and resumed teaching at Villanova.

A heart attack curtailed Father O’Donnell’s teaching, but he managed to compile a history of Villanova’s football and basketball statistics under the titles: “Villanova Football: a Statistical History,” and, “Basketball – A Statistical History.” Just prior to his death he compiled a history of Villanova’s track teams. In his youth he had been given to creative writing. 

In January, 1967, Father O’Donnell was assigned to Saint Augustine Parish, Troy, New York, and the following year was appointed prior of the community. On March 6, 1969, Father O’Donnell died at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Troy, at the age of 64. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Augustine Church by Bishop Frederick Hall, a Mill Hill missionary as principal celebrant. Father O’Donnell’s body was then brought to the Collegiate Seminary at St. Mary’s Hall, Villanova, for a Mass of the Resurrection followed by interment in the Augustinian Plot at Calvary Cemetery, Conshohocken, Pa.