Monsignor celebrates fifty years of service
THIS month, Monsignor James O’Donnell, parish priest of Macroom and vicar general in the diocese of Cloyne, will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
James O’Donnell was born in Castlelyons, the second of six children, and received his early education in the local primary school. He attended the CBS in Fermoy for three years, cycling there daily.
He enrolled as a boarder at St Colman’s College for the final years of his secondary education. He has many happy memories of hurling competitively for the parish and college.
Canon Seamus Corkery of Macroom was curate in Castlelyons during these years.
The young James O’Donnell went to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to study for the priesthood in 1948. A graduate of NUI and the Pontifical University of Maynooth, he was awarded a BA in 1951 and BD in 1954.
He was later awarded a BA from London University, and when he completed the Higher Diploma in Education in UCC in 1958, Batty Desmond, now Fr Desmond, was a fellow graduate.
Fr O’Donnell was one of a class of 66 ordained by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin on June 19, 1955. The class included five priests for the diocese of Cloyne – James O’Donnell, Denis O’Connor, Bertie Troy and the late Paddy Hennessy and Eugene O’Callaghan.
The young Fr O’Donnell’s first posting was to Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, in the Archdiocese of Southwark, where he spent a year before returning to St Colman’s.
His appointment as Dean in 1956 was the last posting Bishop Roche made before his death. Fr O’Donnell was destined to teach and administer in St Colman’s for 33 years.
He taught Christian Doctrine, Irish, Greek, Latin, English, History, French and German, many of these subjects to Honours Leaving Certificate level. He had a particular admiration for Greek language and civilisation.
Fr O’Donnell coached the college hurling and football teams for many years and took particular pleasure in promoting athletics, track and field events and cross-country running.
Even as early as 1960, Macroom left its mark on him when, during a coaching session, he was in collision with a young hurler. The severe fracture he incurred necessitated the resetting of his leg nine years later.
Fr O’Donnell was appointed the 15th president of St Colman’s in 1981 and served in this capacity for eight years. Bishop John Aherne appointed him a canon of the Cathedral Chapter in 1982.
He gained pastoral experience and learned new languages while doing holiday relief work and attending summer courses in England, America, France and Germany.
Canon O’Donnell was appointed parish priest of Macroom and Vicar Forane of Coachford Deanery in 1989 and came to reside in Sandy Hill instead of the then Parochial House at Sunnyside.
Bishop John Magee appointed him vicar general in 1998 with the title monsignor and in 2003 Pope John Paul II, made him a prelate of honour.
Monsignor O’Donnell, after 50 years service to the Diocese of Cloyne, continues his active ministry and involvement with many committees and boards. He also enjoys the odd game of golf.
His congregation has congratulated him on reaching his golden jubilee and long may his active life continue.