ALTON — Father Peter J. Donohoe, 95, died peacefully on Oct. 26, at his home surrounded by family. He was the oldest diocesan priest in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and celebrated 70 years of priesthood in May.
Born on Sept. 24, 1925 in Dromard, Co. Longford, Ireland to John J. and Bridget (McCabe) Donohoe, he was one of 10 children. His education commenced at the one-room Leggagh School, close to St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, where he served as an altar boy. There, his pastor invited him to consider becoming a priest. After his secondary education at the Latin School, Co. Cavan, he attended St. John’s College Seminary, Co. Waterford, Ireland, to study philosophy and theology. His devotion to God and desire to serve promoted his parish involvement. He attended Mass regularly and assisted with altar services. A natural leader, he built unbreakable ties with the parish’s clergy.
In 1946, Father Donohoe arrived in the United States to finish his studies at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, where he excelled in philosophy, theology, canon law, church history and public speaking. He enjoyed campus ministry, attended retreats, and forged connections with the diocese. His first work was as temporary assistant at St. Mary Parish in Taylorville.
Father Donohoe was ordained May 27, 1950 by Bishop William A. O’Connor, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He led thousands of parishioners for over 46 years and continued to serve the community post-retirement. He served at St. Patrick Parish, Alton (1950 to 1954), Blessed Sacrament Parish, Springfield (1954 to 1958), St. Patrick Parish, Pana (1958 to 1961), Ss. Peter and Paul Parish, Collinsville (1961 to 1962), St. Joseph Parish, Meppen (1962 to 1967), St. Rose of Lima Parish, Quincy (1967 to 1976), St. Joseph Parish, Granite City (1976 to 1977), Ss. Peter and Paul, Alton (1977 to 1990), St. Benedict Parish, Auburn (1990 to 1994), St. Alphonsus Parish, Brighton (1994 to 1996) and finally, as parochial administrator of St. John the Evangelist Parish, Medora (1996).
Father Donohoe will be remembered as a dedicated community leader who passionately served his people with his bright spirit, booming voice, and lively humor.
Surviving are his sisters Margaret Keegan and Veronica Prunty of Ireland, and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and several brothers and sisters.
A visitation was held on Oct. 30 at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Alton. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Oct. 31, also at Ss. Peter and Paul Church.
Burial was in St. Patrick Cemetery in Godfrey.
Donations may be made for memorial Masses at Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Alton; the St. Vincent de Paul Society; or Catholic Charities.