Fr. Donald MacLennan remembered as a caring, quiet pastor who helped others

Fr. Donald MacLennan is pictured in his younger days as a priest. Fr. MacLennan, who served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion (1980-87) and St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township (1987-95), died March 24 at the age of 83. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

Fr. MacLennan, who served Lake Orion and Shelby Township parishes before taking medical leave of absence, died March 24

DETROIT — Fr. Donald B. MacLennan was a kind, private priest who went the extra mile to stay in contact with past parishioners and help the less fortunate when he could.

The former pastor of St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township and St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion had to retire early because of health reasons and moved to California for a warmer climate, but he always made time to speak with former parishioners on the phone.

“Except for a few years after retirement when he was in the Detroit area and helping at a local parish, I haven’t seen him since 1997 and our whole relationship was based on the telephone, but he was a very loyal friend,” Christine Albrecht, a former St. Kieran staff member whom Fr. MacLennan recruited to edit the parish bulletin, told Detroit Catholic.

Albrecht spoke with Fr. MacLennan daily after he moved out to California.

“He helped me get through personal problems in my life, teaching me what was important and what didn’t matter,” Albrecht said. “He was a private person with a great sense of humor. He was down to earth and personable.”

Fr. McLennan passed away in Cathedral City, Calif., on March 24. He was 83.

Donald B. MacLennan was born to Donald and Gertrude MacLennan on Feb. 4, 1940. He was ordained for the Diocese of Kitchener, Ontario, on June 6, 1967.

He was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Detroit on July 29, 1974, while serving as associate pastor at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Harper Woods (1971-75).

Fr. MacLennan was coadjutor pastor of Ascension Parish in Warren (1975), and associate pastor of St. Anastasia Parish in Troy (1975-80) before becoming pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Lake Orion (1980-87) and St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township (1987-95).

Fr. MacLennan was remembered for being soft-spoken and doing quiet acts of mercy, not wanting to draw attention to himself, Albrecht said.

“A lot of what he did was help people on the side; he was very private,” Albrecht said. “He told me a story one time about nursing homes. He said, ‘You know, I think it would be nice if people went to nursing homes and said they wanted to visit someone who never had anyone visit them. Then go to that person, introduce yourself and ask them if there is anything they need. Just go and meet people who are lonely.’ I remember saying to him, ‘You do that, don’t you?’ He said, 'What?' and I said, ‘You do that, you go to nursing homes and go and meet strangers.’ He said, ‘I never said that.’”

Fr. MacLennan was granted a medical leave of absence in 1995 by Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit and moved out to California for a warmer climate. He was granted senior priest status in 2005.

His godson, Scott Hartner, took care of Fr. MacLennan in the final years of his life as his health was faltering and he needed more assistance around the house.

“He was best friends with my dad and also my godfather,” Hartner said. “He was a very caring, thoughtful, private person who helped a lot of people and would always open up his doors to anyone who need a place to stay or just help in general.”

Hartner was with Fr. MacLennan when he passed, adding that Fr. MacLennan just wanted to be remembered for being kind.

“It was his kindness, his willingness and ability to help people,” Hartner said. “He was a good example of what it meant to be kind. When he was at either St. Kieran or St. Joseph, he let a young man stay with him who didn’t have a play to stay. He didn’t charge him rent, he just went out his way to show kindness.”

Per Fr. MacLennan’s request, there will be no public funeral, but a private Mass will be celebrated in the side chapel at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.


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