Dedicated president of St Patrick's Seminary

 

Very Rev Canon Augustine O'Donnell who died suddenly in Templemore on September 15th, aged 71, was a former president of St Patrick's College and Seminary, Thurles, and a hurling enthusiast.

To a large extent, the college was his life. He went there as a pupil and returned to spend a career of 30 years. Ordained when vocations were many, and the Catholic Church was at the height of its influence, he was to live to see that influence diminish to an extraordinary extent. For the 12 years after his retirement from the college, he was parish priest of Templemore, Clonmore and Killea. He was in poor health for much of that time.

His work as president in promoting the college is seen by contemporaries as the high point of his career. He devoted skill and energy to the task which brought him into contact with politicians in the various parties, though he was not partisan in a political sense.

The former Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave, was a friend and attended his funeral. Former Taoiseach, Mr Jack Lynch, was also a friend.

In the business of promoting the college and its interests he used his considerable conversational abilities, warmth and charm to good effect. He was as ready to promote his case inside the church as outside it. When vocations began to wane, he made a practice of contacting bishops outside his diocese to persuade them to send student priests to St Patrick's. He was born to farmers James and Mary (nee O'Brien) O'Donnell at Athassel Abbey, Golden, Cashel, Co Tipperary, in November 1927. One of a family of 10, he had four sisters and five brothers. In some ways he never left the land, retaining a keen interest in happenings at the family farm. He was educated at Golden National School, by the Christian Brothers in Cashel, and then at St Patrick's, before going to Maynooth to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Maynooth in 1953. There he received his Licentiate in Theology in 1954 and the Licentiate in Ecclesiastical History at the Gregorian University in Rome in 1956. On his return from Rome he took up a post at St Patrick's, becoming vice-president in 1966 and president in 1972.

His great passion, apart from the college, was hurling. Like many other O'Donnells, then and since, he was closely involved with the GAA club at Golden. He was a good hurler himself and was a substitute on the minor team which was defeated by Dublin in the 1945 All-Ireland final. His brother, William, played on the team which won the All-Ireland for Tipperary in 1937. In retirement, he continued, despite his health problems, to go to the major matches at Croke Park, where he seemed to know everybody. A gifted conversationalist, he was still talking about hurling the night before he died.

He is survived by his brother, Paddy.

Canon Augustine O'Donnell: born 1927; died September, 1999.