Robert Donnelly, the former auxiliary bishop of Toledo who was laid to rest Tuesday, came from a close family.
Born in Toledo, he had an older brother, Quinny, who died young; a little sister, Mary, who died 10 years ago, and his baby brother, Martin. When the Donnelly children grew up, the sister married and was Mary Hendricks.
Both Robert and Martin became priests. In 1984, Pope John Paul II appointed Robert auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Toledo, and he was a bishop for the rest of his life. He entered senior/retirement status in 2006.
PHOTO GALLERY: Donnelly‘s funeral
Bishop Donnelly died July 21 at age 83. Monday and Tuesday at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, viewings, a vigil, and the funeral Mass were held. He was buried in a family plot just above his sister, in Resurrection Cemetery.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Conn., the former bishop of the Toledo diocese, was celebrant for the Tuesday Mass. Archbishop Blair returned to Toledo for the first time since moving to Connecticut to be archbishop.
“I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to two families, two overlapping families,” Archbishop Blair said, “the one being the family, the blood family, the relatives of Bishop Donnelly, but also the family of faith, which is the Diocese of Toledo.
“For 10 years I was privileged to know and work with Bishop Donnelly, and for many of those years we lived in the same house where his kindness and his good humor and his wise counsel were a tremendous help to me in fulfilling my responsibilities.”
He said that Bishop Donnelly’s greatest gift, “more than any work he did or any duty he fulfilled, it was his presence in his family as a Christian man, his kindness, his compassion, and his service.”
In his homily at the funeral Mass, the Rev. James Bacik said, “I’d like to think that Bishop Robert Donnelly could be used as a model for the kind of bishop that Pope Francis talks about and wants.”
Father Bacik said Bishop Donnelly “radiated a spiritual power, a surpassing power. … He was there, unpretentious, a servant in his own family.”
Family and religious responsibilities were important to both Bishop Donnelly and Father Donnelly, their nephew, David Hendricks, said in a conversation Wednesday. He gave the example that they took an active role as priests in the funerals of both their cousin, the Rev. Tom Quinn, and their sister.
“The strength for someone to be able to do that shows what great people they are,” he said. “It would be very easy for them to sit back and have somebody else do that, and they felt it was important.”
At the vigil for his brother Monday, Father Donnelly gave the gospel reading. On Tuesday, he said a prayer and took part in giving communion.
Other family members participated. Presenting the wine and bread for communion, they wore the bishop’s favorite baseball hats. Examples of the bishop’s character were on display along a side aisle, where two picture boards of scenes in the life of “Uncle Father Bishop Bob” stood along with a color portrait of Bishop Donnelly and a framed piece of art signed “Bob Donnelly Grade Five.”
Bishop Donnelly might have been unpretentious, but there was pomp and circumstance at the farewell. Archbishop Allen Vigneron from Detroit and four other bishops were present. More than 100 priests attended, and most of the pews were full.
The viewings were open-coffin, and Bishop Donnelly was dressed in priests’ vestments, as if he were to celebrate a Mass. His bishop’s crook and miter were on a table next to the coffin.
Members of the Knights of Columbus, in capes and feathered hats, stood next to the bishop’s body. Just before the funeral Mass family members gathered around to say their good-byes, the coffin was closed, and a cross, pall, and priest’s stole were placed on top.
In his homily at the Monday vigil, the Rev. Raymond Sheperd, ordained a priest the same day as Bishop Donnelly, on May 25, 1957, said that Bishop Donnelly had a special quality.
“In the 65 years of my friendship with Bob Donnelly,” Father Sheperd said, “never once, in no instance, did he ever say a bad word about anybody. He knew how to say good things or say nothing.”
Earlier Monday, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said, “I think Bishop Donnelly has defined himself in terms of his character and the quality of life that he promoted in his earthly journey. I think he was a pastor for all people.”
“He was a man of all religions and all faiths,” the mayor said, “and the example that he set is an example that all of us would be wise to follow.”