Donnelly, James J.Died
Fr. James J. Donnelly, SJ, A resident of Nepal for 48 of his 50 years as a Jesuit, died on Monday, August 17 in Kathmandu, Nepal. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday on August 5. Preceded in death by his brothers John T. Donnelly and Dr. Lawrence Donnelly, Fr. Donnelly is survived by his sisters-in-law Beatrice (Lawrence) Donnelly and Winifred (John) Donnelly as well as many beloved family and friends. His funeral was held at Assumption Church in Dhobighat, Nepal, on Monday August 17. It was attended by more than 1,000 people.
Fr. Donnelly was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 5, 1929, to John Francis and Bertha Madeline (nee Peterson) Donnelly. He attended SS. Peter and Paul School for elementary school and graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1947. That same year he entered the Jesuits at the former novitiate in Milford, Ohio, and studied philosophy and theology at the former college in West Baden, Indiana, from 1951 to 1960. From 1954 to 1955 Fr. Donnelly did his regency at St. Xavier High School, his alma mater. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 14, 1959.
In 1961 Fr. Donnelly went to Nepal where he taught 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 moved back to St. Xavier’s School in Godavari to serve as principal from 1981 to 1990. Finally, Fr. Donnelly returned to St. Xavier’s School in Jawalakhel in 1992, before retiring in 2000. Throughout his time at the two St. Xavier Schools, Fr. Donnelly was known for his ability to remember the names of all the students he taught and as an excellent basketball coach.
In the early 1990s Fr. Donnelly wrote three text books (The Writing Handbook, The Workbook I for the Writing Handbook, and The Teacher’s Key) which served as important tools in developing the role of English in Nepalese schools. For this and his many contributions to education, he received the Gorkha Dakshin Bahu 3rd Class (a high honor given by the Nepalese government) from King Birendra of Nepal in 2004. In his later years, Fr. Donnelly also took up the hobby of writing his own family history, which was 375 pages and in its eighth edition in 1998. He had recently marked his 50th anniversary as a priest in a celebration on June 14 of this year.
“He was my teacher and my icon,” says Ranjeet Barale, one of Fr. Donnelly’s first students. Yougendra Sakya, another former student who today runs a hotel in Kathmandu, says Fr. Donnelly “made his students feel special.” Buddha Basnyat, now a doctor, remembers him as “a person full of life.” Basnyat describes him as “a man of magnificent humanity” and adds, “Now that he has left us I hope to be able to pass on to my children what he taught us.”
“I have lost a great friend for whom Nepal was home and Nepalis were his people,’” says Fr. Augustine Thomas, SJ, of St. Xavier School in Godavari. “Fr. Jim has contributed a lot to Nepali education and his students will always remember him as an outstanding teacher and affectionate friend.”