The Life and Legacy of Walter J. Donovan

The man Walter J. Donovan was an astounding person. His involvement in his community is almost unparalleled. Of his many great contributions to this world one was founding the first accredited catholic school in Athens Ga, St. Joseph’s Catholic school. Serving his community by helping the people and reaching out to those who have lost their faith or who needed help on their journey of faith. Preaching the gospel and devoting most of his life to helping and building Catholic education and helping those in need was his passion. Because of his great devotion to Catholic education and because of his close personal ties to members of the board and the Athens community our very own school was named in honor of him and his legacy.

Monsignor Donovan was born in Little Falls N.Y. and grew up in the catholic church. He attended the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. After he was first ordained he spent many of his first years as a priest in Savannah Ga and then in 1948 he was moved to Athens Ga where he was pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for 13 years before moving to Atlanta. As a true pioneer of the catholic church in North Ga, his parishes covered 10 counties and he even would go out to rural areas and preach to small groups of Catholics on special occasions. While  in Athens he started the first accredited Catholic school in Georgia, the beloved St. Josephs Catholic School, and then the first Catholic high school in Athens, our very own Monsignor Donovan Catholic high school, also referred to as “MonDon” or “Donovan”, was named in his honor because of his great contributions to the Catholic community and Catholic education in Athens. He attended many of the special events at Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School including several of the Mardis Gras fundraiser events as well as the “Christmas at Donovan” charity event.

Walter James Donovan fell asleep with Christ on July 22 at the age of 96. A funeral mass was held on Wednesday August 1 at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody Georgia. students, teachers, board members, family, friends, fellow priests, and loved ones from all around came to honor the death of the great man Monsignor Walter J. Donovan. The entire mass was very emotional, for all whom were in attendance loved Monsignor Donovan to no end and were having to say goodbye. Students were asked to volunteer to help in the mass and two of our very own students, Nick Walton and Lee Brackman, participated as altar servers.

A second mass was held the following day on August 1 at 10:30 am. and afterwards the burial service was held at Arlington memorial park in Sandy Springs Ga at 1230 pm. Students, faculty, and local community members including members of our schools board were at the burial.

The burial was at Arlington memorial park in Sandy Springs at 12:30 pm on Wednesday august 1. Although it was short, there were a lot of donovan faculty, students, and local community members in attendance including members of our schools board and family members.

This year at MDCHS the school will be celebrating Monsignor Donovan’s life in multiple ways. First the school has created a theme in honor of him which is, “Celebrating ten years of academic excellence through Catholic education” the theme honors Monsignor Donovan’s devotion to catholic education and all that he did for it. The school has also written a prayer that they are distributing in honor of his life. The prayer is,

Heavenly father, thank you for the gift of Monsignor Walter J. Donovan. You have blessed us with his life of Christian leadership and service. We ask that you receive him in into your heavenly home, where he may joyfully praise you with all the Saints and Angels, and intercede for us who benefit from the tradition of catholic education that he established in Northeast Georgia. May we honor him treasuring the gift of education that you have given to us through his hard work and sacrifices. We ask this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.”

An archive of his life and his works has also been created as well as a slideshow of him that will be shown at future events in honor of him. we will be having a founders days celebration in the spring where he will be remembered and honored. That same week we will be celebrating our school and Monsignor Donovan all week. And per his request a fundraiser has been established in his honor. We will also be living out his legacy here everyday at MDCHS.

On Tuesday august 14th the archbishop Gregory came to MDCHS and led a mass. He spoke very highly of Monsignor Donovan. He said these things during the mass.

Today we also remember Monsignor Donovan who fell asleep in Christ this past week. He left a wonderful living legacy and we will remember him for all that he provided us here in Athens. He lived a long life, many of his years were spent here in Athens and establishing the first acrredited catholic school in Georgia. He worked tirelessly his entire life for the growth of the church, serving the people, reaching out to lost Christians and those whom needed Christ in their lives, and preaching the gospel.”

Monsignor Donovan is the heart and soul of our school. Although he has passed he shall not be forgotten and all of his intentions for the prosperity of the school and Catholic education in general will live on through MDCHS and its students. As students of MDCHS we have lost the physical Monsignor Donovan but as long as we continue to live out his legacy and honor his name, Monsignor Donovan will live on for many, many years to come.

By: Daniel Gallo


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