Published September 22, 2022
For the past two years, Dr. Mary Ann Stafford, parishioner at Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, has been compiling the speeches and sermons of the late Msgr. John F. O’Donnell, who died in 2019. Stafford got access to 58 works through the assistance of Mary Bea Hiegel, who with her husband Ken, was the executor of the priest's estate.
Stafford said Msgr. O’Donnell typed his homilies in capital letters on a typewriter from the early 60s to the latest in 2017. As he wrote out his talks, he used pause marks and parenthesis, sometimes writing some additions along with the typed words. Stafford said she could feel his voice as she read the lines. She retyped and edited the works and organized them into categories such as anniversaries, eulogies, sermons, Stations of the Cross and Arkansas history.
Stafford said she intends to send the collection to the diocesan archives so that others can read them. Msgr.O’Donnell retired in 2006 and was a priest in this diocese for 65 years. He was well respected and loved for being a voice against social injustices, a support for integration, as well as an ecumenist working with Jewish, Protestant and Muslim groups. He was known for the content and delivery of his sermons and speeches.
In addition, Stafford has written a 600-word article about Msgr. O’Donnell for the Central Arkansas Library’s Encyclopedia of Arkansas. It is awaiting publication.