Archdiocese lays to rest its oldest priest, Msgr. O’Donnell

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, May 1, 2016

Archdiocese lays to rest its oldest priest, Msgr. O’Donnell

Msgr. Richard O'Donnell was the oldest priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Archbishop Cupich was the main celebrant during a funeral Mass for Msgr. Richard Joseph O'Donnell on April 16 at the Blessed Sacrament Parish/Our Lady of Good Counsel Worship Site, 3528 South Hermitage Ave. in Chicago. Msgr. O'Donnell was the pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish (now Blessed Sacrament Parish), and remained a resident there until his passing. He was 105 years old and the oldest Archdiocesan priest, just a few weeks short of celebrating his 81st anniversary of priesthood. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Flowers in the shape of the White Sox logo stand in the sanctuary during the service. Msgr. O'Donnell was a longtime Sox fan. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Rosemary Hyland and Mary Hetland look over pictures following the Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Archbishop Cupich incenses the casket. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
The casket is escorted out of the church following Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

In the 105 years of his life, Msgr. Richard O’Donnell saw Chicago sports teams win nine Super Bowls, six NBA titles, six Stanley Cups and two World Series championships on the South Side. But nothing from the North Side, quipped Father James Hyland during O’Donnell’s April 16 funeral Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel, 3528 S. Hermitage, a worship site of Blessed Sacrament Parish.

The long-retired priest died April 11. He was pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, now Blessed Sacrament Parish, and remained a resident there until his death.

Up until the end, O’Donnell remained active in the parish and celebrated Mass.

“The celebration of the Eucharist was central to his life,” Hyland said in his homily.

Even strokes didn’t stop O’Donnell from celebrating Mass. They just put a stool up at the altar so he could sit while saying the Eucharistic Prayer.

Praying the rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours daily were also important to him, Hyland told those gathered for the funeral.

Hyland, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Parish in Evergreen Park, met Msgr. O’Donnell while serving as pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish and they spent about 13 years together at the parish.

O’Donnell was born in Chicago on Oct. 15, 1910. He attended St. Bridget and St. Basil Schools, Quigley Preparatory Seminary and graduated from the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary. Cardinal George Mundelein ordained him to the priesthood on April 27, 1935.

He served as assistant pastor at St. Gabriel Parish in Chicago (1935- 41); Our Lady of Peace Parish on Jeffery Boulevard (1941-48); St. Bernadette Parish in Evergreen Park (1948-50); and St. Ita Parish in Chicago (1950-63). In 1963, O’Donnell was named pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish on South Hermitage Avenue, and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1981. In 2010, he received the title “monsignor” from Pope Benedict XVI.

O’Donnell was widely known as an avid White Sox fan and threw out the opening pitch at two games. Before his appearance on the field he practiced warming up his pitching arm in the church parking lot, Hyland said.

But more than the White Sox, O’Donnell loved the Chicago Bears and Coach Mike Ditka, Hyland said.

In a 2010 interview with the Catholic New World, he offered advice to busy pastors, “Do what Cardinal Bernardin did. He was busy too. He got up an hour early to get his prayers in. Prayer, whenever they say it, is very important. That’s how the priest will get along — by prayer. It’s a support, because you’re not all alone, you have God to help you.”

Following O’Donnell’s passing, Father George McKenna became the archdiocese’s oldest living priest at 96.


  • priests
  • religious life
  • chicago sports
  • retired priests
  • our lady of good counsel
  • blessed sacrament

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