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Jesus, The Trusted Friend Of Losers

Fr. Thomas C. Donlan, OP 1917 - 1999

Fr. Thomas C. Donlan, OP
1917 – 1999

On February 27, 1999 a priest friend of mine, Father Tom Donlan O.P. died unexpectedly in Paris at the age of 82.  As a Fulbright Scholar, in his youth Father Tom studied in Paris and fell in love with the city as much as I have in my lifetime.  I first met my friend a short time before his death, in November 1998, while we were on a retreat together in Mundelein, Illinois.

Father Tom liked my book, “I’ll Only Speak For Three Minutes”!  Of my 37 homilies in the book, he enjoyed the one titled, “Serve God While There Is Yet Time” the most.  Little did my new friend realize that he only had four months left in life to serve God.  Despite Father Tom’s towering intellect, he had set out early in life to befriend life’s losers.  After I autographed the copy of the book I gave him he sent it to a young Asian man serving a life term in the Pontiac Penitentiary.  Through my friend’s encouragement, this man in prison had turned his life around.

In John’s Gospel (4:5-42), Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, a real loser in life with a history of five husbands.  Like Father Tom, Jesus was only concerned on how to help this woman put the pieces of her life together again.  Our Gentle Lord won the day with His kindness and winning spirit of friendliness.  Father Donlan was much like Jesus in meeting people.  Somehow I felt welcomed and accepted from the first time I met him.  I myself being a loser in many ways, enjoyed the warmth of his greetings.  Because of my short friendship with Father Tom, I determined to drop some of those losing weaknesses and be a better person.

For all of us we can go to Christ with no hesitancy, knowing that we will receive a warm welcome and a firm handclasp.  His warmth and His smile can melt any coldness of heart towards life and God.  Are we unwilling to change our lifestyle, one that is pulling us away from God?  Are we stuck in a rut of indifference towards our family responsibilities?  We can pour out our hearts to this same Jesus, the Holy One the Samaritan woman met when she went to Jacob’s Well for water.  How delighted He would be to help us rise above our failing life styles.  In no way would He demean us with criticism and scornful looks.

After our meeting that November I had signed up for a Priests’ Retreat the following May at Mundelein because Father Tom was scheduled to lead it.  Little did he or I know that his life would be taken from him.  I lost my friend soon after meeting him, but his memory has always stayed with me.  If a human being can make such an impression in my life, imagine what Jesus of Nazareth can do if I go to Him.

                        Fr. George Mc Kenna

October 5, 2013 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , ,


  1. John

    , Pat and I were back to Chicago 9/19- 9/25 – stayed with Mary Margaret – Denny came over also. went to Vis reunion – had one heck of a time and got to meet Fr. McKenna and get his blessing at the Retired Priests Home. He is 94 – health failing but mind as sharp as a tack – we had a delighted visit with him and I thank you for being the bridge to Mary Margaret & Denny. We rolled back the years to growing up in Vis – love, cousin Maureen

    Comment by Mary Leveck | October 5, 2013 | Reply

  2. I like the abstract combination of modern term and 2,000 year old situation so much.

    Comment by Anonymous | October 6, 2013 | Reply

  3. As this priest friend made an impression on you,you have made an impression on me from Quigley Seminary Thanks for your ministry

    Comment by Paul Krueger | October 6, 2013 | Reply

  4. Hi Fr. George! I’m so happy to read another post from you. It is a great reminder to go to Jesus when we need him. Of course he knows what we need, but he wants to hear it from us. I’m reading the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina, and she says that very thing – when Jesus would come to her, he wanted her to ask for things and talk to him. You are always reminding us of that – to talk to Jesus as a friend, because he is our best friend.

    I can sense the pain of loss in your writing as you talk about your friend, Fr. Tom. I’m sure that you also made a great impact on his life as well. I know that you certainly have made a great impact on my life. My prayer life and spirituality has grown so much since we have started conversing and I’m so happy to call you my friend. I pray for you every day, Fr. George! I love you!
    Love, Nancy

    Comment by Nancy Westvang | October 7, 2013 | Reply

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