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Father James Donnelly

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

KATMANDU, Nepal — Jesuit Father James J. Donnelly, who served in Nepal for nearly 50 years, died in Katmandu Aug. 17.

The Cincinnati native, who had dedicated his life to education in his adopted homeland, was 80 and suffering from various ailments.

“Father Donnelly was a warm-hearted person and an astounding teacher,” Jesuit Father Augustine Amakkatt told the crowd at the funeral held at the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption Aug. 17.

Father James Donnelly (Courtesy photo)

The late priest was also a “walking encyclopedia of chronology of Nepal,” an expert on the Himalayan mountain peaks and a lover of Nepal’s natural beauty, Father Amakkatt said.

Father Donnelly was born in Cincinnati and attended Ss. Peter and Paul School and St. Xavier High School.  In 1947 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Milford and later did his regency at St. Xavier.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1959.

In 1961 Father Donnelly went to Nepal to teach English at St. Xavier’s School in Godavari until 1968. From there, he moved on to teach at St. Xavier’s School in Jawalakhel from 1969 to 1980. He then returned to St. Xavier’s School in Godavari as principal from 1981 to 1990. Finally, Father Donnelly returned to St. Xavier’s School in Jawalakhel in 1992 before retiring in 2000.

Throughout his time at the two schools, the priest was known for his ability to remember the names of all the students he taught and as an excellent basketball coach.

He began writing textbooks in 1991. He wrote three English-language textbooks: The Writing Handbook, The Workbook I for the Writing Handbook and The Teachers’ Key.

“I have lost a great friend for whom Nepal was home and Nepalis were his people.’” says Jesuit Father Augustine Thomas of St. Xavier School in Godavari. “Father Jim has contributed a lot to Nepali education and his students will always remember him as an outstanding teacher and affectionate friend.”

The priest was among four Jesuits to receive the highest award given by the state for his dedication to teaching young people in the country.

Father Lawrence Maniyar, the current regional superior of the Jesuits in Nepal, said Father Donnelly was also renowned for his trips abroad to raise funds, mainly for the construction of schools and houses for Jesuits in Nepal.

“Priests like him are rare and very few exist in the country,” said Maggie Fetch, who knew Father Donnelly from her early childhood. “No one can forget how friendly he was, his ability to recognize people and talk to them even if he had met them only once.”

Father Maniyar said the priest had died with one regret — he failed in his attempts to become a citizen of Nepal. Father Maniyar said Father Donnelly had always remarked, “Nepal is my home, Nepalis my people.”

Persons interested in viewing video of Father Donnelly’s funeral in Nepal can find it at: http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/19-general/959-fr-james-j-donnelly-expires.html.

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