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Tribute to Dr. Charles W. MacDonald (1937-2021)

By Fr. Anthony O’Connor

On March 21, 2021 Cape Breton lost one of its most stalwart and dedicated leaders in Dr. Charles MacDonald. Like so many of the scores of people who knew and respected Charles many of us experienced but a few of the many dimensions of this man.

Born in Dominion in 1937 Charles received his early education in Dominion, later at St. F.X.U. and theology at St. Paul Seminary, Ottawa. He completed graduate studies at the universities of Tubingen and Regensburg in Germany. He studied under the mentorship of Prelate Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI and Dr. Hans Kung, the noted theologian.

St Thomas Aquinas wrote ‘the things that we love tell us what we are.” Over the years Charles generously promoted new directions and group initiatives for the development of many areas of community life.  As a priest and after he was laicized, Charles set a high standard of dedication and service as a professor, cultural supporter, affable farmer, community organizer and mentor to many people. While teaching religious studies for many years at CBU, Charles was a founding member of the Cape Breton Chorale and the Cape Breton Farmers Market. He served as a member of the UCCB Board of Governors. New Dawn Enterprises, BCA Holdings, the Cape Breton Council of Churches, the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design and the Cape Breton Artist Association.

Charles was one of the few Christian teachers and scholars who had the traits of both and could bridge theology with daily life as well as maintain critical thinking and large ideas while attending to social issues of the day.  He will be fondly remembered by many students and faculty at CBU and members of numerous community groups. 

In a special way Charles will be remembered by Catholics in this Diocese. Many of us met Charles through his teaching involvement in the Lay Ministry Program, the Diaconate program as well as talks at many diocesan gatherings over the years.  His passion and effective teaching made learning enjoyable and faith formation a positive experience.  Each person was greeted with respect and attention. He encouraged seminarians and young priests to study, to be involved in the community and find new ways to enrich the life of all. In the early days of Church renewal Charles taught an ongoing formation program for priests at Xavier Junior College.

Charles and his wife Sharon were there for the community and the Diocese. They belonged to Holy Rosary Parish in Westmount and participated in the life of Incarnation church nearby. Even during his failing health Charles and Sharon steadfastly supported individuals and groups in the community by attending public events. From the many people who had the pleasure and honour of knowing Charles throughout the Diocese, our condolence to Sharon and family. We pray that Charles rests in the peace of Christ.

Read the obituary of Dr. Charles W. MacDonald

Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 10 a.m.
Link for the funeral livestream

Communications Officer, Diocese of Antigonish