It was with sorrow and a heavy heart that I learned today that Deacon John Donaghy has entered eternal life, after a battle with cancer. Our loss is heaven’s gain. Born in the United States, he heard the call to be a missionary in Honduras, and he answered it joyfully. He ended up becoming the only permanent deacon in his diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras.
From a tribute posted on social media Monday:
John has passed away after a battle with cancer and some medical setbacks of late. He will be buried tomorrow in Honduras, next to his home and the church.
John was a campus minister at STA for many years as well as Director of Social Justice ministry. He went to Honduras as a lay missionary. In July 2016 he was ordained as a permanent deacon in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. One of his favorite quotes of late was that of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA:“When I first found out I had cancer, I didn’t know what to pray for. I didn’t know if I should pray for healing or life or death. Then I found peace in praying for what my folks call ‘God’s perfect will.’ As it evolved, my prayer has become, ‘Lord, let me live until I die.’ By that I mean I want to live, love, and serve fully until death comes. If that prayer is answered . . . how long really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s just a few months or a few years is really immaterial.”
John has lived fully and served and loved until the end. REST IN PEACE, John. You have fought the good fight, have finished the race, have kept the faith – well done good and faithful servant – may the saints and angels welcome you to paradise.
I am a permanent deacon in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, ordained July 15, 2016. I help in the rural parish of Dulce Nombre de María. From June 2007 to that date I was a lay volunteer with the Catholic diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. Between 2009 and 2014 I served as associate director of Caritas of the diocese. Soy un diácono permanente en the diócesis de Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, ordenado el 15 de julio de 2016. The name “Hermano Juancito” – Brother little John or Brother Jack – was given to me by the children in the Suchitoto, El Salvador, countryside in 1992, a “title” which I treasure – worth more than any doctorate.
In one of his last blog posts, from just before Easter, John wrote about the Holy Saturdays of our lives:
Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, reflecting on his personal experience, notes the importance of living the Holy Saturday moments of our lives:
Whether experienced after the death of a loved one or because of another loss, our suffering usually includes some form of loneliness or emptiness. Some years ago, I left a ministry I loved, and experienced a deep loneliness in the months of transition. Surely the loneliness was tied to the sadness of leaving friends I’d grown close to, but it was more than that. There was a stripping away of identity: a familiar role, a record of accomplishment, a comfortable routine—all those things we can rely on too heavily for a sense of self-worth. For me, this time in my life was a “Holy Saturday moment.” In the Catholic liturgy, Holy Saturday is the day after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday. Churches are left bare. No Mass is celebrated. Quiet pervades. (p. 144)
Sometimes I just want to jump over Good Friday and Holy Saturday to get to Easter. But, as Fr. O’Brien notes:Enduring the pain of our Good Fridays or the emptiness of our Holy Saturdays is not easy. The temptation to run away, to anesthetize or insulate ourselves from the pain, is understandable but not helpful in the end. Although we should avoid unnecessary suffering, we do well to tend to, even befriend, our suffering. (p. 145)Many times, I want the chemo to end as soon as possible so I can return to normal. (But then I remember Bruce Cockburn’s song, “The Trouble with Normal is that it always gets worse.”)
How then to live in Holy Saturday?
That may be my Holy Week question.
Yet, God at times sends us messages to help us live in faith and hope. On March 30, the anniversary of the 1990 death of Sister Thea Bowman, FSPA, I encountered again his amazing quote – which now makes complete sense to me:
“When I first found out I had cancer, I didn’t know what to pray for. I didn’t know if I should pray for healing or life or death. Then I found peace in praying for what my folks call ‘God’s perfect will.’ As it evolved, my prayer has become, ‘Lord, let me live until I die.’ By that I mean I want to live, love, and serve fully until death comes. If that prayer is answered . . . how long really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s just a few months or a few years is really immaterial.”
Lord, let me live until I die.
Thank you for your friendship and service and sacrifice, John. You helped show me how it’s done. I know you will be remembered in many prayers in the hours and days to come, from so many people whose lives you touched, including mine.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine up on him ...