Archbishop Lucas Donnelly, a very special citizen

17 Oct 2012 | News

We remember the Argentinean bishop, Mgr. Donnelly: he lived for a year in Loppiano, then in the little town of the Focolare in O’Higgins (Buenos Aires)

“The spirituality of unity or communion gave me the opportunity to understand and live with a greater gift the sublime vocation of baptism, of religious consecration, of priesthood and the episcopate”. With these words, contained in his spiritual testament, Mgr. Lucas Donnelly – Bishop of Deán Funes (Argentina), who died on 31 August at 91 years of age – entrusted his apostolate and the spiritual contribution that he received as a result of knowing the Focolare Movement. For twelve years he lived permanently in the little town of the Movement located in O’Higgins (250km from Buenos Aires). A lover of classical music – above all Chopin – he was for many an authentic witness of love for Christ even in the last few difficulties of life: “I’m losing my memory”, he confided, “but I find great comfort in prayer and meditation”.

Born in 1921 to parents of Irish descent, the youngest of six children, already as a boy he cultivated a deep desire to give himself totally to God. He chose to consecrate himself in the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, with the specific vocation of freeing humanity from all the current forms of slavery, and became a teacher and leader in his community during the hard years of dictatorship in Argentina.

Donnelly proved to be a pastor respectful of the freedoms of spirit of each person and also a man of great intellectual acumen. He understood “that a major shift was being prepared for in the Church…which would later take shape and be signed by the Second Vatican Council…I always liked to try new things, without neglecting the most important thing”, love for God.

At the end of the 1950s he encountered the Focolare Movement, also personally when he met the founder Chiara Lubich. He actively endeavoured to raise awareness of the charism of unity among many and in the development of the branch of bishop friends of the “Work of Mary”.

In 1980 he was appointed Bishop of Deán Funes and received episcopal ordination from Pope John Paul II. He said of Pope Wojtyla: “I had a profound relationship with him. Every time I went to Rome I met him personally. Twenty times I was present at his audiences”.

After a year spent at the International Centre “Claritas” for religious in Loppiano, in 2000 he became the first bishop to reside in the little town Cittadella Lia in Argentina, where he lived for 12 years. On that occasion Chiara Lubich wrote to him: “Welcome to the first little town that has the joy and honour to welcome among its inhabitants a successor of the apostles, a bishop who has given so much to the Church”. In one passage of his spiritual testament Bishop Donnelly says of this experience: “In this centre, I was able to experience what it means to love as a life experience, what it means to live with “Jesus in the midst” at all times and in the circumstances of everyday life. In this way I was able to better understand the mystery of “Jesus Forsaken”, the key to unity with God and among men, and I discovered my neighbour as a sure path to union with God”.

Today there are many who remember him. In the little town his was an active presence and, at the same time, a silent witness in following Christ, fully realising what Chiara Lubich had written to him twelve years ago: “With his presence and his wisdom, Jesus in the midst in the little town will grow and become more radiant”.

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