Thousands of uniformed members of the New York City Police Dept. lined the streets outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan, Jan. 13, as the City said farewell to hero NYPD Detective Steven McDonald.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the main celebrant of the Mass. As he greeted the body at the front doors of the church, he was flanked by Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop James Massa and N.Y. Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara.
McDonald was paralyzed after being shot by a robbery suspect in 1986. He died earlier this month after suffering a heart attack at age 59.
His son, Conor McDonald, a NYPD sergeant, thanked those present at St. Patrick’s, “Thank you so much for showing tribute to my beautiful, amazing father… I never thought this day would come. My father was the real Superman … He was the greatest man I could have asked for to be my father.”
He added that his father would call him at 5 a.m. every day before he went on patrol.
McDonald was a familiar figure throughout New York City. A fervent Catholic, he became a spokesman for peace and forgiveness. He also was a strong pro-life, anti-abortion advocate, praying with the Brooklyn-based Helpers of God’s Precious Infants outside abortion mills.
In one of his last public events, he spoke to the children of St. Patrick’s Academy in Bay Ridge. Msgr. Michael Hardiman, pastor, recalled the day.
“I think everyone who was there when Detective McDonald visited will never forget his visit and his message,” said Msgr. Hardiman. “His story was so powerful and the message of forgiveness will always stay with the children.”
The academy’s principal, Kathleen Curatolo, added, “It was a privilege to listen to him. He is the living example of doing the best with what God has given us. His message of forgiveness in itself to forgive the man that shot you takes such great courage everyday. He also told the students that if he didn’t learn to forgive he wouldn’t still be here and be able to be with them on that day.”
Det. McDonald worked tirelessly with Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, a pro-life group that leads prayer vigils at the sites of abortion, not only in New York but also around the world.
Msgr. Philip Reilly, founder of the Helpers’ movement, said, “I lost a good friend. He brought joy wherever he went. Steven knew the sacredness of life, after almost losing his life. He did not become bitter, he became better. He was always so positive. You would say how could he be positive? He embraced life and uplifted everybody. People were always happy he was there.”
Other Catholic organizations praising McDonald included the N.Y.S. Catholic Conference and The Catholic League.
“Steven McDonald was special: He was a paragon of forgiveness, teaching all of us – Catholic and non-Catholic alike – of the need to forgive those who have trespassed against us,” said Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League.
“Steven was also a robust defender of the faith. In 2010, he spoke at a Catholic League rally across from the Empire State Building, protesting the decision by the owner of the iconic structure not to honor Mother Teresa; a request I made to have the tower shine blue and white on her centenary was refused (though Mao Zedong, the mass murderer, was honored). Steven also spoke at events with me fighting anti-Semitism.”
A statement from the N.Y.S. Catholic Conference said, “The New York State Bishops mourn the death of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, as we celebrate the great gift that he was to his family and to all New Yorkers. Steven lived his Catholic faith in a truly authentic way, forgiving the man who shot and paralyzed him, loving his family, and speaking out on behalf of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.”
Contributing to this article was Matthew O’Connor of The Tablet staff.