SAVANNAH, Ga. - Monsignor Felix Gerard Donnelly, died Saturday, January 12, 2002, at Azalealand Nursing Home. A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Monsignor Donnelly served as a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah for 56 years. A tall, gentle man of elegant bearing and a dry wit, he endeared himself to many with his humility and his following the Gospel mandate to live a simple life. Born on November 15, 1916, one of nine children of Felix J. and Theresa White Donnelly, he received his secondary school education at Belmont Abbey, North Carolina and at St. Peters High School in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In his twenties, he said he felt he had a vocation to the priesthood, but he did not have the resources to enroll in a seminary. While working for a railroad in Atlanta, he had a chance encounter with Bishop Gerald P. OHara, then newly appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, who was instrumental in his enrollment in St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, Maryland. He also studied at St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, N.Y. and at St. Mary Seminary at Roland Park in Baltimore, Md. Bishop OHara ordained Donnelly to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta on March 17, 1945. After ordination Father Donnelly served briefly as an assistant pastor at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta and at St. Anthony Parish in Atlanta. He then became pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Warner Robins, serving there from 1952 to 1957. He served as pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Savannah from 1958 to 1963 and as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Augusta from 1963 to 1966. In 1966 he was named a monsignor. He remembered as a highlight of his early ministry his service at St. Josephs Boys Home in Washington, Georgia in the 1950s. "The priest before me had a farm there, Monsignor Donnelly recalled. ÒI knew nothing about farming, but the county agent came out and showed me. I eventually taught the boys as well as I could." He served as pastor of St. Teresa Parish in Albany from 1966 and as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Savannah from 1969 to 1972. He served as administrator of Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Savannah from 1969 to 1970, as pastor of St. Teresa Church in Augusta from 1972 to 1976, and as rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist from 1976 to 1981. His later temporary assignments were associate pastor at Nativity of Our Lord in Savannah, as temporary administrator of St. Patrick Parish in Perry and as associate pastor at St. Anne Parish in Columbus for a number of years. Among his many special assignments, he served as director of Camp Villa Marie in 1945 and 1946, as Savannah Deanery Moderator of Catholic Youth from 1957 to 1963, as a professor at St. John Vianney Minor Seminary in Savannah in 1959 to 1960 and as Vicar Forane of the Albany Deanery from 1966 to 1969. On March 17, 1995, Monsignor Donnelly observed the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood by concelebrating the St. Patricks Day Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with former Savannah Bishop, Raymond W. Lessard. In recent years, as his health failed, he had lived in retirement at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist rectory and later at Azalealand Nursing Home. Monsignor Donnelly is survived by his sister, Mrs. Mary Jane Nelson of McKeesport; two brothers, Bernard "Red" Donnelly of Largo, Florida and Thomas Donnelly of Marietta; and a number of nieces and nephews. A Vigil Service for Monsignor Donnelly will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 14 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, January 15 at the Cathedral with Bishop J. Kevin Boland as main celebrant and priests of the Diocese of Savannah as concelebrants. Burial will be in the Priests Lot at the Catholic Cemetery. Remembrances may be made to the Cathedral Heritage Endowment Fund, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 222 East Harris, Savannah, Georgia 31401 or the Social Apostolate, 502 Liberty Street, Savannah, Georgia 31401. Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors- Hodgson Chapel, Savannah.
The Augusta Chronicle January 14, 2002