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Archdiocesan Priest, Rev. John J. McDonnell, Dies

Fr. McDonnell was Pastor at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish on 64th Street in Chicago

Chicago, IL (July 25, 2018) – Rev. John J. McDonnell, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish on 64th Street in Chicago, died on Monday, July 23, 2018. He had just turned 71 on July 18.

Born in 1947 in Chicago, Fr. McDonnell (also known as Fr. JJ) attended St. Cornelius Catholic School and Quigley Preparatory Seminary North both in Chicago. Fr. McDonnell went off to Niles College in Niles, Ill., and to the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. Later, 14 years into the priesthood, Fr. McDonnell joined the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy, to pursue his Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

Fr. McDonnell was ordained to the priesthood on May 9, 1973, by John Cardinal Cody, Archbishop of Chicago, and celebrated his first solemn Mass at St. Cornelius Catholic Church in Chicago on May 19 of the same year.

After ordination to priesthood, Fr. McDonnell served the archdiocese in a variety of roles: He was assistant pastor at St. Louise de Marillac Parish in La Grange Park, Ill.; he became associate pastor at Holy Name Cathedral Parish on State Street in Chicago; he taught Christian anthropology and ecclesiology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill; he was the administrative secretary for Francis Cardinal George from 1997 through 2003; and served as pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish from 2003 until retirement in 2017.

Colette Waickus, business manager at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, had known Fr. McDonnell since 2003 when he started his assignment as pastor of the parish. She worked with “Fr. JJ” on a Catholic school project and considered him family ever since. “He was genuinely kind, accepting and understanding of people,” Waickus said. “Always even-toned and diplomatic, he knew how to make peace in every situation.”

Msgr. Jim Kaczorowski, pastor at Queen of Angels Catholic Church, had known Fr. McDonnell for 52 years. “He was a very good friend,” Msgr. Kaczorowski said. The two classmates spent many Wednesdays off together, golfing in their earlier years and out to dinner in their later years, and went on many vacations together “although he worked hard and was not really a vacation person,” Msgr. Kaczorowski added.

Msgr. Kaczorowski remembers his friend as “a person who gave more than he took in life. In his first parish in LaGrange, or working with the cardinal, or welcoming the homeless at the cathedral, or working with the elderly and with different cultures at St. Mary Star of the Sea, JJ was open and present,” Msgr. Kaczorowski said. “He was very generous with his time, talent and treasure with everyone, including being a great tipper at restaurants. He was a humble, kind and caring priest.”   

Visitation hours will be Thursday, July 26, from 2 until 8 p.m. and Friday, July 27, from 9 to 11 a.m. A prayer service will be also held on Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m. while the funeral Mass will take place on July 27 at 11 a.m.

All funeral services will take place at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, 6435 South Kilbourn Avenue in Chicago.

Bishop Francis J. Kane will be the main celebrant while Msgr. Kaczorowski will be the homilist.

Interment will take place at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Ill.