Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell

Bishop McDonnellPlace of Birth and Home Parish
New York, N.Y. I grew up in three different parishes, all in the Bronx: St. Francis, St. Anthony, and Holy Cross

High School
Cathedral Preparatory Seminary

St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.; later I received a master’s degree at Iona College.

Date of Ordination
June 1, 1963

What assignments have you had since ordination?

Regular Assignments: Associate pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Ardsley, N.Y., 1963-1970; assistant director of the Archdiocesan Office for Christian and Family Development (CCD, family life, pro-life), 1970 – 1977; director of the Archdiocesan Propagation of the Faith, 1977-1980; vice-chancellor (Building Commission, Purchasing Agency) 1980 – 1984; pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Manhattan, 1984 – 1990; chief operating officer of Archdiocesan Catholic Charities, 1990-1993; pastor of St. John and St. Mary Parish, Chappaqua, N.Y., 1993-2002; vicar general of the Archdiocese of New York, 2002-2004.

Special Assignments: Religion faculty of Maria Regina High School, Hartsdale, N.Y., 1963-1969; chaplain at Cardinal McCloskey School/Home, White Plains, N.Y., 1971- 1977; episcopal vicar of West Manhattan, 1989 – 1990; acting deputy president and deputy CEO of Covenant House, 1990.

What have been some of the greatest joys for you as a priest?

Celebrating Mass and the sacraments with and for people; helping people to grow in faith and in closeness to God; working with other priests, religious and laity in parishes and other ministries.

Who influenced you most to consider the vocation to priesthood?

I’m told that I said at the age of 3 that I wanted to be a priest. I can’t remember a time when I thought differently. My family – both my mother and father were people of prayer; I had a great-uncle, born in Ireland, who was a priest in Florida. He was a truly happy man whom I admired. I witnessed his compassion and concern. All those things – and God’s grace – had its effect on me.

What was your background before you entered seminary?

My father owned a gas station where I worked in high school and college: pumping gas, fixing flats, greasing cars. Back then, I could take an engine apart and put it together. In college, I also was a member of the elevator operators union and ran elevators in Manhattan apartment buildings.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m a half-way decent short-order cook.

What are some of your hobbies?

Besides upholding the Yankees, I’ve always been an avid reader – history and biography in particular. It’s well known I enjoy puns – but anagrams too, and crossword puzzles, especially the Sunday Times ones.

What are some of your favorite books/spiritual reading/magazines?

I have a collection of Bible translations that I compare. It’s so difficult to get all the nuances of another language exactly; so, by comparing translations I gain a deeper sense of the original. The Divine Office, especially the readings from the Fathers of the Church, is a wonderful school in which to learn. I wish more people knew of its richness for prayer.

Who is a hero to you?

There are so many. There’s a talk I used to give called “Saints I Have Known.” It focuses on people whom I’ve known personally and on those whom I never met but still have influenced me. They’re all candidates for canonization. The ones I’ve met are Terence Cardinal Cooke, Dorothy Day, Father Walter Ciszek, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul II; the others include Charles de Foucauld, Pope John XXIII, Pierre Toussaint, and Father Felix Varela. Their stories all influenced me.

What are some ways that we can help all people/families understand their role in promoting and supporting vocations?

I don’t think I ever heard my father use the word “vocation.” But he lived his. As a young child, I used to see him come home after a long day at the gas station, wash up, eat supper, and then before going to bed kneel down quietly to say his prayers. That had a profound influence on me. It told me prayer was important, that God was important. If by deed more than word parents convey that notion, they are promoting and supporting vocations – both the overall vocation we all have from baptism, and the individual vocations to which God calls us.

What advice would you give a young man who is contemplating a vocation to the priesthood?

There’s a preface in one of the Masses that says: “You choose the weak and make them strong in bearing witness to you.” In other words, God always gives the graces needed when He calls us to a particular state of life. So, any man, young or older, should first talk with a priest, regularly take part in Mass and sacraments, pray, read, and, very practically, contact a vocation director like Father Gary M. Dailey (