Newsday is currently running a series on the History of the Diocese of Rockville Centre to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the first suburban diocese. It is an interesting piece. Newsday has in the past been openly anti-catholic so this piece seems reasonable in comparison. I will be writing more on this topic soon. The article has its bias of course, but with that said the piece is definitely worth a read.

One item in the article brought to mind something I have been meaning to write about for some time. It is a quote from Msgr. James McDonald, rector of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor N.Y.

First some background.

Msgr. McDonald was a young priest in the parish in which I was born and raised, St. Matthew’s in Dix Hills N.Y. He was always on of my favorite priests, although as a child I didn’t fully understand why. He later went on to become the pastor at my current parish in eastern Long Island. Ultimately he returned to his first parish of St. Matthew’s, this time as pastor.

It was during his time as pastor at St. Matt’s (2000-2006) that I realized why I liked him so much as a child and even more so now that I am grown. He is a simple, honest, no nonsense priest. He understands that his job is to bring Christ to the people in Word and in deed, to help save souls, and above all, to administer the sacraments. He understands that his job is to administer the sacraments. Sacraments convey the grace needed for salvation, so bring people the sacraments.

I remember some time back when he told the story of a family who finally got around to baptizing their child when the child was already several years old. He energetically admonished everyone who has a baby to immediately get the child baptized. Their salvation depended upon it. No nuance or nonsense, “your child must be cleansed of original sin so get your baby baptized, Now! Why in heaven’s name would you wait?” You do not often hear such clear and simple teaching from the pulpit these days.

He has always emphasized the sacrament of reconciliation as well. Many times he would tell the parishioners “we will have confession all day on Monday so you have no excuses. Come to confession. I will be in there all day and I will bring my lunch with me. I don’t care if it has been 40 years since your last confession, don’t worry, I will go easy on you.” He would tell all who had ears what a wonderful grace confession is. “Come to confession”, he would implore time and time again. And they came.

He has always understood that his significance does not derive from any novelty or turn of phrase he could introduce at mass; his significance and his relevance, derives from his priesthood and the sacraments he is privileged to administer. A good priest, pure and simple.

When I heard that he would be leaving St. Matthew I was sorry to see him go. But I was thrilled to hear he would be going to the seminary. I had heard from recent graduates that the seminary, in short, was a mess. I knew that Msgr. McDonald’s view of what a priest should be and what a priest should do was exactly what the seminary needed.

Bishop Murphy said at the time of Msgr. McDonald’s appointment as rector in January 2006:

Msgr. McDonald is the right person for this time in the history of our seminary and he is a tremendously gifted priest. Everyone who has met Msgr. McDonald knows him to be a man with a love for the priesthood and a crystal clear understanding of what it means to serve God in the priestly ministry.

Indeed. In an piece from the National Catholic Register entitled “Seminary Secrets of the Priest Maker”, we see the following quote from Bishop Murphy that sums up Msgr. McDonald well.

“Msgr. McDonald, 64, has never taught in a seminary and holds no advanced degrees in theology. But Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy said he tapped the long-time pastor because Msgr. McDonald holds “a doctorate in priesthood,” and is “an extraordinary mentor and leader of the men,” as demonstrated by his tireless recruitment of vocations. ”

It gives me great hope for my diocese that Msgr. McDonald is guiding the priests of the future.

So now that I have given you the background, I bring you back to the quote from Msgr. McDonald that struck me in the Newsday article.

“You cannot eradicate the Catholic Church,” said Msgr. James MacDonald, rector of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor, housed in a stately structure that symbolizes the grandeur and rich history of the church. “It will last until the end of time.”

Simple, to the point, and certainly true. Quintessential McDonald. May God grace the Church with many more priests like Msgr. McDonald.