National Chaplain Father Thomas O’Donnell was recently honored with a Mass at the beautiful Epiphany Catholic Church, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania on the occasion of his 50 years of service as a priest. Hundreds of family members and well-wishers, including members of the National Board, attended the Mass and dinner for this grand celebration.
Father O’Donnell, now 76, grew up in Garfield, PA and entered the priesthood in his early 20s. With his 50 years of priesthood he has been grateful to have been able to serve so many people in numerous parishes. His career included working at many Pittsburgh Archdiocese churches including; St. Kieran, St. John the Evangelist, St. Norbert, St. Clare. He was made pastor at two parishes including Annunciation and St. Wendelin. In 1975 he was also appointed as a part time Tribunal Judge serving 25 years. In 2000 the Bishop requested that he accept a position of a full time Judge of the Tribunal in which he has served the past 10 years. I’m grateful I’ve been able to be in service to so many people. Thousands of children baptized and confirmed, celebrating the marriages of couples, all the aspects of trying to be a representative of Christ and his people. He said.
Father O’Donnell has been a very active member of the AOH for over 55 years. As a young seminarian his father took him to the Division 21 meetings where he became a member. When he was ordained five years later, Division 21 gave him his chalice as an ordination present. This is the same chalice which he used at his anniversary mass to celebrate the Eucharist. While he was at St. Kieran Church in Lawrenceville he became a member of Division 23. In the summer of 2000 the AOH County Board was in need of a Chaplain and at his cousin, Kevin Donohue’s suggestion, he accepted the position and thus became the AOH Allegheny County Chaplain. Not long after that he was named a PA Deputy State Chaplain for two years before he was appointed the State Chaplain. In June of last year as Father Tom was working at his desk in the Tribunal the phone rang. He expressed his feeling as he looked at the caller ID and saw the name Seamus Boyle register, Now when you get a call from Seamus it almost amounts to getting a call from the Pope. He didn’t think that Seamus was calling for an annulment because he felt thought that he and Berta had a pretty solid marriage. He was correct. President Boyle had called him to become the Order’s National Chaplain. I was humbled and gratified that Seamus had put enough confidence in me to appoint me to this position. He expressed. The appointment was effective on the first of July 1 after appointment was approved by Bishop Zubik. Father O’Donnell has been a guiding light for the Order ever since.
In a recent talk that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York gave to the priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he said: Priest must not only enjoy their ministry but they must relish being a priest. The Bishop went on to say that the priesthood is not a profession, it is a life. The unity with the Church becomes more apparent when the priest is simply present to the people. The people may not remember a homily at Mass or a parish meeting, but will remember the visit to a sick relative, a wedding Mass, a funeral Mass, or the priest’s presence in school. The priesthood is never more powerful that when we are simply with the people. For fifty years Father O’Donnell has enjoyed his ministry and has relished being a priest, as an assistant, a pastor, a Tribunal Judge of course as a Chaplain for the Ancient Order of Hibernians.