Father John A. Donahue, SJ, missionary in Honduras, entered into God’s peace on September 1, 2014 at the Jesuit community in El Progresso. He was 67 and had been a Jesuit for 50 years and a missionary for 33 of his 35 years of priesthood.
Fr. Donahue was born in Los Angeles on November 11, 1946, the eldest of seven children born to John V. Donahue and Agnes Dewan Donahue. He grew up in Downey, Calif., attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School there and Loyola High School, Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Santa Barbara on September 7, 1964.
Two years of novitiate were followed by first studies at Loyola Marymount University (1966-68) and two years of philosophy studies at Mount St. Michael’s, Spokane, a campus of Gonzaga University (1968-70). Fr. Donahue was then was assigned to Loyola High School, Los Angeles, where he taught English and religion (1970-72).
Very interested in working with the poor, he spent four years in community organizing at Holy Family Parish, Chicago (1972-76). Theology studies were made at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley (1976-80) and John was ordained a priest on June 16, 1979 in Blessed Sacrament Church, Hollywood, by Timothy Cardinal Manning.
His first assignment after ordination was to St. Joseph’s Church, San Jose, where he served on the staff of the busy downtown parish. Fluent in Spanish, Fr. Donahue went to Honduras for a summer assignment in 1980, where there was an immediate need and to test his missionary vocation. It was to be a transformational event. He wrote to a friend that that what he experienced there “was plenty to attract me back…to do the Lord’s work of building community among the very poor Honduran people,” noting that the needs for assistance are “clear and concrete.” His sense of calling was strong, as was his deepening of faith: “I was able to understand the scriptures better than I ever have in the past.”
Fr. Donahue was assigned back to Honduras in January 1981, and would spend the rest of his life in rural parishes in the Department of Yoro in the northeastern part of the country. In 1982 he officially became a member of the Central American Province. His time was spent traveling to the scattered villages in his rural parish, often by bicycle or on foot. In addition to his sacramental ministries, he put his training to work in building up lay community leadership in the churches around the banana camps to engage in needed religious and social development.