Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Msgr. John Donnelly, former IR editor, dies at age 72

the Inland Register

(From the Aug. 18, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Msgr. John Donnelly, 1980 Msgr. John Donnelly, second editor of the Inland Register, died July 27. (IR file photo)

Msgr. John Donnelly, a priest of the Diocese of Spokane for 47 years, died July 27. He was 72 years old.

The vigil was prayed July 31 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, Spokane; the funeral Mass was celebrated the next morning. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.

He was born in Spokane, but spent his early years in Wallace, Idaho. The family moved to Spokane, where he attended St. Augustine School before entering St. Edward Seminary in Kenmore, Wash.

After a brief period of pastoral work following ordination, he was sent to journalism school by Bishop Bernard Topel. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri, and returned to the Spokane Diocese to become editor of the Inland Register in 1959, replacing the founding editor, Father Terence Tully.

Father Tully took over the IR once again when Father Donnelly was assigned as Director of the Bureau of Information of what was then the National Catholic Welfare Conference. In that post, Father Donnelly provided expertise nationally during the coverage of the assassination and funeral of President John F. Kennedy.

He moved to the Rome bureau and covered the proceedings of the Second Vatican Council, the Israeli Six-Day War, and other European events.

He was a member of the team that created the three-volume Council Daybook, chronicling the four sessions of the Council. He also wrote Prayers and Devotions from Pope John XXIII.

In 1967 Pope Paul VI named him a monsignor, with the title Papal Chamberlain.

That was the year he returned to Eastern Washington and the Inland Register. He served as editor, business manager, and executive editor of the paper until 1980.

He served as pastor of St. Mary’s Presentation Parish, Deer Park; Immaculate Conception Parish, Deer Park; Holy Family, Clarkston; and Assumption and St. Anthony parishes, Spokane.

He also ministered as chaplain to the Spokane Serra Club, and was rector of Bishop White Seminary from 1969-75.

In 1980 he was interviewed as he stepped down from involvement with the IR for what would be the last time. He talked about his time as a “priest hyphenate” – a priest-journalist.

“The role of the Catholic newspaper is to supplement our people’s understanding of world news with a perspective that arises from their faith,” he said in 1980. “It should provide readers with the means to put current events into the context of their beliefs, and bring those Christian beliefs to bear on the secular world.”

Vatican II, he said, “was an object lesson to me on how God can write straight with crooked lines. The individual sessions of the Council were the crooked lines, full of confusion, but the final documents that emerged from that confusion were clear and largely unified.”

He acknowledged the excitement and challenge of church journalism. “But then again,” he said, “there is plenty of excitement in parish life, too.”

He contributed a final article to the 50th anniversary edition of the IR in September 1992.

He wrote: “One thing I know now that I did not know in the seminary, and that is that the work of the ministerial priesthood knows no pat definition, and that God has been able to my limited talents for his purposes in creative ways whether I was operating as a ‘hyphenated’ priest-journalist or in the more traditional ministerial role of pastor. A sense of wonder and of gratitude pervade both these ministries for me....”

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