John Francis Donoghue, who retired as Archbishop of Atlanta in 2004, was born in Washington, D.C. on August 9, 1928, the son of Daniel and Rose Ryan Donoghue. Both of his parents were Irish immigrants. His father was a government worker and his mother a domestic. He has three brothers, all of them in the Washington, D.C. area.
During his 11 years as Archbishop, Donoghue realized his dream of bringing Catholic education to more children in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He kicked off a fundraising campaign in 1997 entitled “Building the Church of Tomorrow,” and raised
millions in funds, which he directed to new schools. It was an ambitious plan, especially given that throughout the U.S. Catholic schools were closing at an alarming rate at that time.
Ultimately, Archbishop Donoghue helped raise $70 million and opened five new state-of-the-art schools: three elementary schools and two high schools. Frank Moore, founding principal of Blessed Trinity, told a writer for the Georgia Bulletin, “Those of us who work in Catholic education and all the parents involved in Catholic schools know that the gift he gave us is so extraordinary and his ongoing support is so wonderful. I’m not sure anyone else in the whole country can say as much about their bishop.”
In the same article, the Archbishop commented, “Whatever success there’s been, it is really because of our good Catholic people and good priests and good religious. Without them and their generosity in offering their lives to the church we wouldn’t have anything.”
Archbishop Donoghue was ordained to the priesthood in St. Matthew Cathedral, Washington, D.C., on June 4, 1955. He served as assistant pastor of St. Bernard’s Church, Riverdale from 1955-1961, and then as assistant pastor of the Holy Face parish, Great Mills, Maryland until 1964. He was then asked to join the staff of the Archdiocesan Chancery as Chancellor/Vicar-General and served there until his appointment as Bishop. In 1970, he was given the papal rank of Chaplain to His Holiness with the title “Monsignor.” A year later he was named a Prelate of Honor.
He was ordained bishop in 1984, becoming the second bishop of Charlotte. After nine years in Charlotte, he was named by Pope John Paul II to head the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and was installed as Archbishop on August 19, 1993.