PALATINE, Ill. — Chicago Cardinal Francis George, who had a friendship with the late Bishop Emeritus Andrew J. McDonald for 24 years, celebrated the funeral Mass before 150 people April 4 at St. Theresa Church.
Because St. Joseph Home for the Elderly was the late bishop’s residence for 12 years, a visitation, rosary and funeral were held to allow the residents and nuns he ministered to, as well as local residents, to celebrate his life.
From Little Rock, Greg Wolfe, diocesan finance director, Msgr. Francis I. Malone, chancellor for ecclesial affairs and pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, and Marian Swift, the late bishop’s secretary, attended the services.
The visitation and rosary were held April 3 at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly. Among those attending were Bishop George J. Rassas, an auxiliary bishop in Chicago who befriended the bishop, Mother Marguerite McCarthy, the mother provincial, and Craig Yost, a local volunteer who accompanied the late bishop on his recent trips to Little Rock.
The bishop’s body was dressed in a chasuble with the image of Mary and the child Jesus, a miter with a St. Andrew’s cross and on his hand was his green episcopal ring. A green and gold cord and crucifix hung around his neck that belonged to his late sister, Sister Incarnata McDonald, RSM. He held a rosary from another sister, the late Sister Mary James McDonald, CSJ, with 12 medals attached, one for his parents and one for each of his 11 siblings.
About 100 people attended the rosary that night.
“The rosary was simplicity and beauty. I experienced the prayer almost as a dream,” Wolfe said.
The funeral Mass was held at St. Theresa Church about a block and a half from St. Joseph Home.
Five bishops, Little Sisters of the Poor and priests attended the funeral.
“As he spoke the opening prayer, his voice broke and he had to pause when he mentioned the name of his friend, Andrew Joseph McDonald,” Wolfe said of Cardinal George. “It was the only time the cardinal stumbled over his emotions in the service.”
The first and second readings were read by Wolfe and Yost. Msgr. Malone delivered the homily.
“I was struck at the consecration that a Catholic funeral Mass differs from other Christian funeral celebrations,” Wolfe said. “At a certain point in our funerals, the focus moves from the deceased back to Jesus.”
After Communion Cardinal George shared how he developed a friendship with Bishop McDonald in 1990 when Cardinal George was serving in Yakima, Wash. Bishop McDonald commented in 1998 at his 75th birthday Mass, which the cardinal attended, that the cardinal was one of the smartest people he had ever met.
“(The cardinal) said that from the beginning ‘Andy’ was his friend and taught him about the nature of rural dioceses,” Wolfe said. “Over the years, he said that the most important thing he taught him was to take the responsibility of being ordained and being a bishop very seriously but to never take himself too seriously.”
Wolfe said he observed at the funeral that the late bishop had an influence on many lives while living in Illinois.
“Some would cry, especially at Communion when they came close to the casket containing the bishop’s body,” he said. “It was clear from the faces and interactions before and after and overheard comments that Bishop McDonald had touched each one in a loving, special way during his time in Palatine.”
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