Apr 25, 2014

Bishop McDonnell shares memories of popes soon to become saints



Staff report

SPRINGFIELD – As the April 27 canonization date approached, Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell shared with iobserve some special memories of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II and how the soon-to-be saints have influenced his own priesthood and episcopacy.

“I’ve been blessed to live under a number of popes,” said Bishop McDonnell. “Pius XI was pope when I was born; I grew up under Pius XII; I studied for the priesthood and I was ordained when John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. 

                                                                     (CNS photo)

“My early priesthood was when Paul VI helped the church implement the documents of Vatican II,” he recalled. “I mourned with the whole church, the short reign of John Paul I. It was John Paul II who named me a bishop and assigned me here to Springfield.”

“Most of my years here have been under Benedict XVI and in the last year the church and myself have been enlivened by Pope Francis,” he continued. “In my bedroom, I have a papal blessing from Pope John XXIII, commemorating my ordination. It is something I have treasured for almost 51 years and is a reminder of Pope John.”

Bishop McDonnell was officially assigned as bishop of Springfield in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, whom he visited several months before the pope’s death in 2005. The photo above was taken during this 2004 visit.

“In my office hangs the document signed by Pope John Paul II assigning me as bishop of Springfield and with it, a photograph of a private visit I had with the Holy Father in 2004,” Bishop McDonnell noted. 

And he emphasized that both popes who will be canonized this weekend had lasting impacts on his priesthood and his service as bishop.

“John XXIII and John Paul II were larger than life figures who figured prominently in my own life,” said Bishop McDonnell. “I’ve tried to model my priesthood after John XXIII, good Pope John. I’ve tried to be a bishop after the image of Pope John Paul II – both remain role models for me. 

“And now as their canonization approaches, I will trust in their intercession to help me as I approach retirement, that leaving aside administration, I may involve myself more fully in ministry, following their examples.”