A Good Shepherd, Good Priest, Good Friend
Published: November 24, 2011
Archbishop John F. Donoghue was a Good Shepherd, a good priest, a gentle man, and a good friend to my wife, Jill, and me. I have many wonderful memories of working for Archbishop Donoghue, as a volunteer and as an employee, as a layman and as a deacon.
The archbishop’s 1993 pastoral letter, “Rejoice in the Lord, Always!” first caught my wife’s and my attention. In it, he called for a restoration in devotion to and teaching with respect for the Sacrament of the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of our Catholic faith. I had immediate flashbacks to my days as a Cathedral altar server, when I participated in beautiful Masses followed by exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament with classic St. Thomas Aquinas sacred hymns and Corpus Christi processions on the grounds.
My first personal contact with Archbishop Donoghue occurred when he spoke to the Catholic Business Persons’ monthly luncheon downtown. The archbishop laid out an unexpected agenda: the dignity of human life from conception until natural death and how he planned to protect life. At the end of his remarks, he looked everyone there in the eye and challenged them to join him for what became the annual Masses for Life at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the march to the state Capitol steps, and the North Georgia Catholic bishop’s remarks. He had our full attention then.
Pilgrims from the Atlanta Archdiocese visit Rome’s Trevi Fountain with Archbishop Donoghue in June 1994, a trip that centered on the papal Mass where the archbishop received from Pope John Paul II the pallium symbolizing his unity with the Holy Father. Lloyd Sutter and his wife, Jill, are pictured to the left of the archbishop. (Photo by Gretchen Keiser)
When The Georgia Bulletin began announcing the 1994 pilgrimage to witness Archbishop Donoghue receiving his pallium in Rome, Jill and I thought we should go. It was not certain the pope would even be able to celebrate the June 29 Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul because he had broken his hip some months back, but we were privileged when he did celebrate the Mass. We had absolutely no expectation of what happened next: that we would accompany our archbishop to a private audience with the pope—a singular event in our lives we will never forget! Nor will we ever forget the archbishop’s Masses on the memorial of the Roman martyrs and in the Catacombs.
Shortly afterward, Archbishop Donoghue asked me to join a group of priests and lay people, led by the archbishop and his then-vicar general, Msgr. Edward Dillon, to form a Eucharistic Renewal committee. This working group would begin the archbishop’s liturgical and catechetical plan for resuming Eucharistic devotions and religious education about the Eucharist to be based on the forthcoming English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was assigned to the catechetical subcommittee to work with the priest members to prepare written materials related to the Eucharist.
During the year 2000, the archbishop spoke at our parish, St. Andrew Church, Roswell, for the “Prepare 2000” seminars Father Paul Reynolds had organized for the Great Jubilee Year. He gave a prepared, written presentation for about 45 minutes on “The Eucharist and Forgiveness.” But then he opened the floor for questions. For approximately 30 minutes, he answered questions extemporaneously so brilliantly that he received a standing ovation. It was an electric night for everyone. In late summer 2000, the archbishop called and asked me to assist the Secretary of Education and him as archdiocesan Office of Religious Education administrator because responsibilities for schools and parish education were being separated. Finally, we accompanied our archbishop on a pilgrimage to Rome for the Great Jubilee Year 2000 to celebrate All Saints Day, and simultaneously the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s Assumption dogma promulgation.
On Feb. 24, 2001, at the Cathedral, Archbishop Donoghue ordained me a deacon along with five classmates. This was a powerful experience for me, not only as a sacrament, but also because the Cathedral was significantly connected with our family.
Finally, it was a privilege, even if bittersweet, to assist Archbishop Donoghue in 2004 to make his final Ad Limina Apostolorum report to and visit with Pope John Paul II in Rome. He had already submitted his resignation to the pope at age 75. Two Masses for which our archbishop was celebrant and I was his deacon were special: the Sunday evening Mass at the Altar of the Chair in the Basilica of St. Peter and the Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, concelebrated with all of the bishops and priests from our province, as well as the Province of Florida and the bishops of the Military Archdiocese. Little did Jill and I know that we would return to this magnificent basilica five years later on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe 2009 for the priestly ordination of our son, Father Richard F. Sutter, L.C.!
Thank you for everything, Archbishop! And may God bless you and give you restful peace.
Deacon Lloyd Sutter serves at Our Lady of the Mountains Church, Jasper.