St. Aidan Church’s pastor, Monsignor James McDonald, died Friday at the age of 77.
At a wake in the Roman Catholic church Monday night for McDonald, his sister, Anne McDonald, said she was worried not many people would attend. By the end of the night hundreds of St. Aidan School students, parishioners and those who had known McDonald filed through the doors.
“The support from the community has been amazing,” Anne McDonald said. “It’s a very sad time for our family, but it is nice to see all of these people who he loved here.”
McDonald was characterized by many as a loving, witty and most often available leader at St. Aidan in Williston Park.
“He opened his doors to the entire community,” Rosa Scott said. “He always, no matter how late your schedule was, would be there for you, even past his bedtime.
“In any scenario possible in your life that you needed help with he was there for you. He was a part of our family.”
“This was his family,” the Most Rev. Robert Brennan, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, said. “He loved this community and it shows. He means so much to this community and he made himself available to anyone, any time and that is what this is all about.”
McDonald was born April 10, 1941. He attended Cathedral College in Brooklyn before completing his theological studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. McDonald was ordained as a priest on May 27, 1967.
McDonald first served as an associate pastor at St. Matthew in Dix Hills in 1967. He served several communities in the same capacity as well as a rector and pastor before being assigned to St. Aidan Parish in 2009 by Bishop William Murphy.
“His passing is a major loss to our community,” Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said. “He was an impact both within the church and the wider community.”
“He was an inspiration,” village Trustee Michael Uttaro said.
“This is a very difficult time for our family, but it’s also a difficult time for the people here,” Monsignor McDonald’s brother Robert McDonald said. “He loved this entire parish and just as we mourn because he was our family, he was a part of theirs.”
“His sermons always had meaning,” Scott said. “He accepted everyone and made it easy for everyone to feel welcomed.
“People loved him,” Scott said.
In addition to his sister and brother, McDonald is survived by another brother, Morgan.
McDonald’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 21.