Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Detective Steven McDonald Was a Saint for Our Times

Santo subito! Sainthood now!

That was the chant when Pope John Paul II’s coffin was carried through St. Peter’s Square. It very well could be our chant as we say goodbye to Detective Steven McDonald.

The hero New York City police detective, who was shot in the line of duty by a teenager and paralyzed in 1986, lived the next 30 years of his life in a wheelchair. Rather than bitterness and despair, he dedicated the rest of his life to preaching a message of forgiveness and reconciliation.

He traveled the world to talk about peace in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Bosnia.

He was a familiar face around the diocese in Brooklyn and Queens schools where he spoke to the students about getting along with one another and forgiving each other when they did not.

He reached out to the young man who almost took his life in that shooting incident in Central Park, offering to help the young man rehabilitate himself after spending 10 years in prison for the attempted murder. Unfortunately, the young man was killed in another incident after his release.

Detective McDonald was a constant presence at prayer vigils conducted by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants outside abortion mills. Whether it was the heat of summer or the chill of winter, nothing kept him away from processing alongside Msgr. Phil Reilly and the Helpers in their quest to heal the wounds of abortion.

In 2010 when the Helpers observed their 25th anniversary of ministry, they presented McDonald with a commemorative plaque for everything that he had meant to the pro-life movement.

On the set of The Prayer Channel’s Tablet Week in Review, Tablet Editor Ed Wilkinson interviews NYPD Det. Steven McDonald in this spring 1996 Tablet file photo.

I first met McDonald in 1996 when we invited him to appear on The Prayer Channel’s Tablet Week in Review. We talked about the Rosary, forgiveness and the New York Rangers. The interview was so substantive that we extended the interview to twice the allotted time.

From time to time, our paths would cross and I would say hello. I would pat his immobile arm. He would always have a smile and a nod. The last time I saw him was last Good Friday when he was participating in the Way of the Cross procession over the Brooklyn Bridge. His motorized chair was having trouble keeping the pace of the marchers. But it didn’t matter to Steven, he kept moving along, sharing the journey of Jesus’ final sufferings.

Steve McDonald was the quintessential Catholic. His faith was unshakeable. His hope was inspirational. His love was unending.

Born in the Brooklyn Diocese, growing up in Rockville Centre and serving in the Archdiocese, he belonged to us all. So, it was only right and proper for his funeral to be have been held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Manhattan, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan would be the main celebrant.

When Pope John Paul II met Detective McDonald at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, it was the second time he had done so.

“I think I know you,” said the pope.

It took a saint to know another saint.

3 thoughts on “Detective Steven McDonald Was a Saint for Our Times

  1. I was just saying this to a few friends. They looked at me like I had 3 heads. His life, is more than an inspiration He was Calvary. He lived in the neighboring town, he has been the Saint of Malverne for a long time. God bless his wide, and son too.

  2. He shined like a diamond. The Light of the Holy Spirit reflected off him. An inspiration of faith and inner strength for us all. Steven McDonald will be greatly missed. At the same time we rejoice for his soul, for he is with Our Lord. He served HIM well.