When Catholic Chaplain Fr. Bob O’Donnell was reassigned away from Macalester at the end of last year, the news came as a shock to many students. He began his new position before the school year began, which not only left the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (CRSL) without a Catholic priest, but kept many from giving him a proper goodbye.
In order to allow students and faculty to bid O’Donnell farewell, the CRSL hosted a small reception for him Tuesday afternoon, giving him a proper send-off from Macalester while transitioning into his new position at the University of California-Berkeley.
O’Donnell was in town this week for a wedding, so Dean of the CRSL Lucy Forster-Smith organized a reception to overlap.
O’Donnell thanked the CRSL staff for the opportunity to come back and say goodbye.
“I feel right at home here. It’s been great to come back and see everyone, especially for those who weren’t here when they got word [that I was leaving],” he said.
Although the reception was fairly low-key, many students and community members took advantage of this opportunity to say goodbye to O’Donnell.
“It’s really sad to see Fr. Bob leaving,” said Alexia Malaga ’14, who knew O’Donnell through her involvement in Mac Catholics. “It’s important to the community to have someone in his position on campus.”
Miriam Magana ’14 said O’Donnell’s visible presence on the greater campus would be missed.
“You would always see him at school events and stuff like that,” Magana said. “It’s nice to see him outside in that context.”
O’Donnell took a break from his new position in Berkeley to come back to Macalester. He is working at Newman-Hall Holy Spirit Parish, the university Catholic community, where he served as a Deacon 40 years ago and lived in the same house that he is currently staying in.
“So much seems to have not changed there,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell, who also worked at the University of Minnesota’s Newman Center, had to leave his assignment at
Macalester when the Archdiocese removed his order from their positions and installed diocesan priests as replacements.
Macalester is still left without a Catholic chaplain, roughly five months after O’Donnell was notified he would be reassigned. Although Rev. John Forliti, a retired priest and the chaplain at St. Catherine’s University, has been saying Mass on campus on a temporary basis, the CRSL is still hoping to find a permanent Catholic Chaplain.
No replacement has been found, and Forster-Smith is still working with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to locate a priest. They are currently very occupied, said Forster-Smith, and she will begin working with them in November to find a priest in time for the spring semester.