Fr. Donovan loved parish, animals


DETROIT — Fr. Michael Donovan was dedicated to the people of his parish, having a love for learning, and a love for animals, those who knew him best said.

“He was rather private in his life, but was very devoted to his parish (St. Donald Parish in Roseville), and did a bang-up job there,” said Fr. Donald Worthy, a seminary classmate and fellow member of the ordination class of 1962.

Fr. Worthy said Fr. Donovan was “a brilliant student, by far the brightest of us — he was excellent in Latin and read St. Thomas Aquinas in high school.” And Fr. Worthy added that he was always willing to help fellow seminarians who needed a bit of tutoring.

Noting that Fr. Donovan’s father had been an inventor, Fr. Worthy said his classmate had “a marvelously curious mind that extended to the natural world — he was a genius, no doubt, and yet he had a great sense of humor.”

Referring to the closing of St. Donald and Fr. Donovan’s retirement last year, Fr. Worthy added, “Perhaps it was providential that his career was ending as his parish was shutting down — and as he was shutting down.”

Fr. Donovan died Feb. 6 in McLaren Regional Medical Center in Mount Clemens. He was 76.

Fr. Michael Cooney, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mount Clemens, said some people thought Fr. Donovan had become a recluse, “but he wasn’t really a recluse — it’s just that he recognized there were only so many hours in the day, and he wanted to spend them with the people of St. Donald Parish or in prayer or reading.”

“His life was centered on prayer and the people of his parish,” Fr. Cooney continued.

He added that Fr. Donovan was “a voracious reader” and called him “one of the most interesting, well-read priests in the archdiocese.”

Fr. Donovan had a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan and maintained a keen interest in the subject, Fr. Cooney said, adding, “His faith in God deepened as he learned more about life.”

He was also known for his love of animals; he had 20 parrots and parakeets, as well as a 50-pound tortoise when he retired. Fr. Cooney said homes were found for all the birds as Fr. Donovan’s health worsened in recent months, and the tortoise is in the care of an animal shelter seeking to place it in a zoo.

Michael A. Donovan was born Nov. 11, 1936, in Detroit to Delbert and Sadie (Marieb) Donovan. He attended St. Theresa and St. Agnes grade schools, Sacred Heart Seminary high school and college, St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth Township, and the University of Michigan.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 2, 1962, and his first assignment was as an assistant pastor at Christ the Good Shepherd Parish in Lincoln Park; after which he was assigned to the Newman Apostolate at the University of Michigan.

Fr. Donovan then served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Fatima, Oak Park; St. Cletus, Warren; and St. Paul on the Lake Parish, Grosse Pointe Farms; as well as briefly at St. Pius X, Southgate; and St. Mark, Warren.

He also served as temporary administrator of St. Nicholas, Capac; and St. Francis of Assisi, New Haven (Ray Township); and in campus ministry at Wayne State University.

In 1983 he was appointed pastor of St. Donald in Roseville, where he served until its closing last year.

Fr. Donovan is survived by a sister, Patricia Ann Donovan. A funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 12 by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron at St. Athanasius Church in Roseville. Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Deborah Temrowski, 15441 Van Meter, Macomb 48044. Memorials to the Humane Society.