Msgr. McDonnell named senior priest

Msgr. Thomas McDonnell, long time pastor of South Boston’s St. Augustine Parish and a fixture in that section of the city, has retired from his duties at the parish. Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley accepted his request to become a senior priest with retirement status, effective Feb 21.

A native son of Mattapan’s St. Angela Parish and alumnus of Boston College High School, he entered the archdiocesan seminaries and completed his theological formation at Rome’s North American College. Ordained in Rome on Dec. 19, 1960, he returned to the archdiocese and in August of the following year he was assigned to St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Beverly. After a bit more than a year at that north shore parish, he returned to Rome to complete doctoral studies in theology.

Upon his return from Rome, he was assigned in July 1964 to St. Augustine Parish in South Boston where he served until his appointment to the faculty of St. John’s Seminary in June 1969.

In February 1978 then-Father McDonnell began a new form of priestly service when Cardinal Medeiros appointed him Vicar for Religious of the archdiocese. In that role, he served as the contact between the archbishop and the women and men religious of the archdiocese. In 1983 he assumed additional responsibilities as Coordinator of Ministry with Handicapped People.

On Feb. 15, 1983, Cardinal Medeiros named him pastor of St. Augustine Parish in South Boston, returning him to familiar territory. He has served the South Boston parish since then, adding in 1997 further responsibility as pastor of neighboring St. Monica Parish.

On April 21, 1998, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, named Father McDonnell a member of the papal household as a Prelate of Honor with the title Reverend Monsignor.

During his 21 years in “Southie” he has become widely known and respected not only by parishioners of both parishes, but also by the wider South Boston community. He was active in many local organizations and a familiar face at social and civic functions.

He was a regular weekly columnist for this newspaper and he writes seasonal pieces during Lent and Advent as well as occasional pieces at other times.

In retirement, Msgr. McDonnell will live at the rectory of one his former associates at St. Augustine, Father John Dooher, who is now the pastor of St. Mary Parish in Dedham.