Advertisements ad

August 2, 2009

He tries to listen to the people in the pews

By Dolores Madlener



Father Martin (Marty) O’Donovan receives the gifts from children making their first Communion at Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish in Winnetka on May 3.Catholic New World/Karen Callaway

He is: Father Martin (Marty) O’Donovan, appointed pastor of Ss. Faith, Hope and Charity Parish, Winnetka, in 2008. Former pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel for nine years and pastor of St. Christina Parish for 15 years. Ordained 1978 at Mundelein.

Family: Grew up with two brothers and a sister in St. Christina Parish. Dad was a salesman with a contracting firm. His mom never worked outside the home “Until my dad got sick and died within three days at age 58. She began working at Little Company of Mary Hospital in the EKG Department to mandatory retirement, age 70, then a month later a doctor asked her to fill in for a few months at his office, and 22 years later she’s still there working three days a week at age 92.”

Heroes: “I played all kinds of sports mostly Little League and area Babe Ruth teams. I was and am a big White Sox fan. Everyone wanted to emulate stars like Louie Aparicio. But if there was anyone I wanted to be most like it was my father. He inspired me to be the best I could be.”

The call: “Call? I’m not sure if I heard it with a great clarity or if there was a singular moment. I know when I was a kid we had terrific parish priests. One was Father Julian Grinnis, who has only been dead a few years. I thought he was such a good guy. It was presumed I’d go to Brother Rice High School. But one day I said to my family I’d like to try Quigley. They were a little surprised but very supportive. As I grew older and went through the system I grew more comfortable with the notion of priesthood. I don’t think there was one big epiphany or trumpet blast.”

First car: “I got my first car at the end of senior year at Niles Seminary. It was a ’69 Buick Wildcat convertible. Definitely second hand, but a great car.”

People person? “I try to be a hands-on pastor. There are some who would say the pastor’s role is to manage organizations or systems. That isn’t my style. I’d rather deal with people. I always have trusted my instincts with people.”

Third pastorate: “The older you get the harder it is to adapt. But it’s what we’re called to do so you do your best with it.” Essential skills? “I think you have to listen to people. Find out about the place, its strengths and weaknesses. There’s a tendency for some of us to come in and try to replicate our previous assignment. It isn’t fair, and I don’t think it works.”

Relaxation: “In the summer I try and play golf. It’s truly an addictive behavior when you can be bad at something and still enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed it. I try and see my family either on a day off or a Sunday afternoon.”

Reading: “I like to read. Two books are on my desk, ‘A Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Elaine Pagels’ ‘Beyond Belief,’ the secret gospel of Thomas. I certainly don’t mind picking up a page-turner. The new Harry Potter movie is out — I read all those books and thoroughly enjoyed them.”

Scripture: “I utilize the words of Mary at the marriage feast of Cana, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Discerning what he tells you can be hard. The story of the road to Emmaus in Luke’s Gospel is about Jesus, in a very human way, befriending people, pointing them back in the right direction. They don’t recognize him. I think that’s great because a lot of times I don’t recognize Christ in people.”

How to encourage vocations? “Ordinary moms and dads have to ask the question, ‘Is the church important enough to us that we’d encourage one of our own to follow a religious vocation as a priest or religious?’”