Father Jim O'Donnell Celebrates St. Patrick's Day with Cleveland-Irish Memories

Father Jim O'Donnell
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Sunday is St. Patrick's Day. It's a day of celebration for those with Irish heritage and often others who join in the revelry.

As people prepare to commemorate the day, we call upon two mainstays in the Cleveland Irish Community, Father Jim O'Donnell and the late Kevin McGinty, a radio host at 90.3.

At St. Colman's Church on Cleveland's west side, 88-year-old Father Jim O'Donnell plans to be at morning mass Sunday.

Father Jim O'Donnell [photo: ideastream]

The son of Irish immigrants, "Father Jim" has been a fixture of Cleveland's Irish-Catholic community. 

Born in East Cleveland to Irish immigrants O'Donnell was ordained in 1956 and began his life as a priest at St. Colman on West 65th Street.

St. Colman Church [photo: Cleveland Memory Project]

O'Donnell's father worked construction alongside many of St. Colman's parishioners as did O'Donnell as a young man.

He was grateful to begin his career there.

"At that time most of the parishioners in St.Colman's were Irish. Most of them came from the same part of Ireland where my mother and father came from, County Mayo," O'Donnell said.

St. Colman Church [photo: Cleveland Memory Project]

St. Colman was a familiar name to many Irish immigrants in Cleveland, because St. Colman Cathedral is in the seaport town of Cobh, a point of departure to America.

"So they left St. Colman's in Ireland and they came to St. Colman's in Cleveland.  It was a wonderful way of getting the blessing of St. Colman when they were leaving and receiving the blessing of St. Colman's when they came here," he said.

Kevin McGinty and ideastream's David C. Barnett [photo: ideastream]

Last fall, ideastream's Kevin McGinty, the co-host of the British and Irish Hour on WCPN, passed away at 78.

A former grand marshal of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Cleveland, McGinty was a beloved member of the local Irish community.

Father Jim led the funeral service and shared a funny memory of McGinty visiting him in the hospital.  O'Donnell was too sick for visitors that day, but McGinty was able to skirt around security to sit at the priest's bed side.

"I said, 'Kevin where did you come from? How did you get in?' He said, 'Oh, sure to God I told them I was the bishop, and they let me in,'" O'Donnell said.

As the story goes, the next day Bishop Anthony Pilla tried to visit to the ailing priest.

"He couldn't get in to see me, because the 'bishop' was there the night before," he said.

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