Be a leader. Be a friend. Be of service.
This is Deacon Patrick McDonald’s family motto that has guided and defined their lives. There is no area of his life untouched by his evangelization. As he says: “When I go to Mass, I skip to Mass. When I go to work, I skip to my office. I just look forward to it – there’s no better way!” At 80 years old and celebrating 45 years of being ordained a deacon, Deacon Patrick is the longest serving active deacon in the United States. His calling is currently at St. Patrick Church in Brighton.
Happily married for 55 years to his wife Peggy, father to eight children, grandfather to 18 – Deacon Patrick is explicitly aware that God has looked after him to keep him on his path for Christ. “Peggy and I just really enjoy what we do. We can’t believe we’ve been so blessed – the Lord looks after us. We enjoy helping people and being instruments in being able to give the Eucharist to people, to assist them, being on different organizations and being of service. It’s not a job. It’s a vocation to be a disciple,” he says. Deacon Patrick and Peggy are the hands and feet of Christ we are all striving to become.
Deacon Patrick has followed a four-part guide in his life. He says, “If you want to do good to influence others, you get into one of four areas – communication via TV or radio, teaching, community work or labor relations. So I did all four in my life.” His work included a spot in a four-person rotation on a reoccurring radio program on WJR in Detroit called My Point of View, where he would insert the Christian perspective. Deacon Patrick also was an adjunct law professor at both the University of Detroit Mercy Law School and Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor for a total of 44 years, and he continues to serve as an arbitrator and attorney.
The McDonald family delights in having all eight adult children and spouses remain practicing Catholics. “Peg and I both feel very blessed to have that occurring. We sent them all to parochial school. We prayed as a family as they were growing up, they were all expected to be at dinner, and we emphasized the importance of family and called ourselves the ‘McDonald Mob,’” he recalls.
Deacon Patrick recalls the blessing of protection he and Peggy asked of our Blessed Mother once they realized the stitch count of their family at one point was more than 200. “We said, ‘We’re not doing a very good job of protecting these children!’ So we prayed to the Blessed Mother, ‘Dear Blessed Mother, we’re placing these children under your protection. We can’t do it. That’s been demonstrated. Would you please protect them?’ At that point, all the stitches stopped. It was miraculous!” The Blessed Mother surely extended her blessing beyond the stitches, bumps and bruises the McDonald family was experiencing.
The McDonald family was recognized this past year as the Knights of Columbus Family of the Year. In a letter written for the selection panel, Deacon Patrick and Peggy precisely spelled out the humility with which they live. They wrote: “We are aware that there are many strong Catholic families doing God’s work. As a result, any award that we would receive would be accepted on behalf of all those wonderful families who are ‘following faithfully in the footsteps of Christ.’”
Deacon Patrick will not be slowing down any time soon, as he and Peggy continue to enjoy serving the families of St. Patrick. The call to action in Deacon Patrick’s homily given on Jan. 21 of this year is one that encompasses his life’s work, and challenges us all to be faithful and bold as we continue to live this life for Christ:
“The call to faith – to live our vocation as Christians – is urgent. Faith has consequences. Faith is dynamic. Faith changes the world. May we have the courage to be who we are called to be – to be Catholic. Amen. God love you.”