When the news arrived last Friday that Fr. John McDonald, S.J. '45 had passed away, a number of graduates immediately responded with caring words and endearing stories about Xavier's 44th headmaster, who served 16th Street from 1962-1969.
Fr. McDonald entered the Jesuits immediately after his graduation from Xavier in 1945, and would go on to teach at Brooklyn Prep and Fordham Prep before returning to Xavier as headmaster. After his term as headmaster, he moved to McQuaid High School, in Rochester, where he was the superior of the McQuaid Jesuit community, eventually becoming rector and president of that school. From 1978 and onward, he held various positions in the New York province. Fr. McDonald did pastoral work at the Fordham's Loyola Community until 2009.
A memorial fund has been established to honor the memory of Fr. McDonald, with a $5,000 lead gift generously contributed by Rich Battaglino '67. To make a contribution to the fund, click here
A selection of memories of Fr. McDonald shared by Xavier graduates:
Father McDonald appeared on the 16th Street steps of Xavier at about 11 p.m. just before Thanksgiving 1962 as several of us from the Class of 1963 rolled up in a ’55 Chevy with the Fordham Ram in the backseat. A 10th precinct squad car pulled next to us and asked what we were doing, we smilingly declared, “We just stole the Fordham ram!!” One cop turned to the other after doing a double-take, seeing the ram’s head staring at him through the left rear window and said to his partner “Hey, Hughie! It’s a sheep!”
We were all amazed to see Father McDonald. We thought we were in more trouble than usual until he smiled more broadly than any of us remembered. He was wearing a dark smoking jacket with an ascot which we guessed to be his lounging wear while reading. He disappeared and a few minutes later emerged from the lower ground floor door and told us to bring the ram to the locker room on the right.
We gave the ram back the next day at midfield at Randall’s Island. When the Fordham headmaster wanted us all expelled, it was Father McDonald who dealt with the matter diplomatically. We neither got jug nor sent up the river for “Grand Theft Ram” as we were the first high school to steal the Fordham mascot. I grinned when I saw a bronze statue of the ram on the Fordham campus a few years back when I attended my daughter’s graduation, magna cum laude - a much better academic achievement than mine and extra meaningful in light of our successful guerilla operation.
It seems like just yesterday seeing Father McDonald’s smile. He’s in my prayers and my mind’s eye - he was a wonderful person to us.
-Martin J Corrado ‘63
Fr. McDonald was my headmaster. He was a highly intelligent and very refined man. Too good for most of us savages!
-Rob Martin '68
I remember Fr. McDonald as well as the then Prefect of Discipline, Fr. Heavy with fondness and gratitude.
Being two years older than most of my classmates because of my migration to the US , I was drafted into the army in 1967 due to a oversight error. Fathers McDonald and Heavy as well as PMS Capt. Frederick Smullen lll saw it fit to favor me with letters that allowed me to obtain a waiver/deferment and complete my high school education. My family and I will forever be grateful! Today, the day that I become a grandfather for the first time with a bouncing baby girl named Bianca Marie, it is most significant. God only knows what the path could have been had the letters not had the desired result.
May Fathers McDonald and Heavy rest in peace!
-Rafael J Martinez '69
I remember John from my last two years at Xavier - he was a wonderful man and a true Jesuit.
-Roy Van Brunt '63
I don't recall the reason or the purpose, but I do fondly recall Father McDonald spending several hours one evening talking with me, about Xavier and my future. Together with Father Spanelli, those two gentleman had the strongest influence and impact on me, while at Xavier. I still often recall both of these men to my friends and family. Both were good and Godly men. That's the best epitaph that anyone can have, after leaving this earth for a heavenly reward.
-Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. '69
After being accepted at Xavier, we had to be at the gym one afternoon to complete some forms, etc. So after school, I jumped on the subway in the Bronx, took my first walk through Union Square, and met my dad at the school’s entrance. The first person of the Xavier community to greet me was Fr. “Mac.” He shook my hand and welcomed me to Xavier. And so began a great 4 year experience on W 16th St. May Fr. McDonald rest in peace.
-Mike Mondaruli ‘71
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