James P.


Walk of life:
Through the Roaring Twenties St. Dennis had as pastor a man who rekindled the pioneering spirit of the founders. Father James P. O'Donoghue arrived at St. Dennis at a "boom" time for the City of Lockport and America in general. Oil and the related expansion at the nearby Texaco refinery fueled the "boom". With the "boom"" came an influx of money into the area that parishioners willingly channeled back to the Church. These were the days of the 'brick and mortar' pastors and Father O'Donoghue was in step with the times. He put the funds to good use by constructing a retaining wall to the south of the church structure by the walkway. The wall made possible the conversion of the church basement into a parish hall. Father O'Donoghue redesigned the church entrance installing stairways at the north and south ends of the vestibule. His love for the beauty of art manifested in the commissioning of murals on the church ceiling (when the roof collapsed during the tornado of 1965 the paintings were lost). Father O'Donoghue erected the most striking piece of architecture since the completion of the church. The sandstone rectory, beautifully complimenting the church, stands as a lasting memory to the priest, the parishioners and the time after the First World War when the way to go was 'first class'. Such was the 'golden age' of the Archdiocese of Chicago under the leadership of Cardinal Mundelein. The 'golden age' inspired benefactions by many parishioners. The key one for St. Dennis was a gift by the Fitzpatrick family. Their generosity enabled the construction of a brick school building. The new school allowed for the retirement of the original Haytown church structure. With modifications it had been in use as a school since 1881.
Biographical details:

native of County Cavan, Ireland, James P. O’Donoghue was delivered into the world on the first of May 1876. He studied at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin but it was not until he came to America in 1903 that he completed the study for the priesthood. After graduation from St. Paul Seminary at St. Paul, Minnesota, he settled in Chicago. He was ordained on Pentecost Sunday, June 11, 1904, at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. After ordination Father O’Donoghue served as assistant at St. Columbkille, St. Mary’s in Rockford, back to Chicago and ‘old’ St. Patrick’s, then to St. Veronica’s Church.

Only at St. Dennis but five short years, Father O’Donoghue’s days were very productive and fulfilling. He was true to his Irish roots and reveled in the spirit of St. Patrick at the annual banquet honoring the Irish patron saint. The "New World" of March 13, 1925, noted that besides the guest speaker, the Reverend Hugh P. Smythe, former pastor at St. Patrick’s in Lemont, the novelty of the program was the "playing of the Irish war pipes by Mr. John McKenna." The evening was spent in the enjoyment of Irish melodies played upon the pipes.

Having proved himself a dynamic pastor Father O’Donoghue was rewarded with the assignment as pastor of one of Chicago’s most renowned churches of the time, St. James Church at 29th Street and Wabash Avenue.

As the Second World War raged Father O’Donoghue moved to St. Killian’s on July 3, 1942. He was there five years. Father James P. O’Donoghue passed away on the second of August 1947, in the St. Killian rectory following a year of lingering illness. Four sisters and one brother attended the solemn High Mass given in his honor. Two of his sisters were nuns of the Order of Providence. Cardinal Stritch eulogized this priest who, like so many before him, made the transatlantic journey to minister in the New World. Among the priests acting as assistants for the cardinal was Reverend Michael Mugan, pastor of St. Dennis Church at the time of Father O’Donoghue’s death.

Specific research interests