By John T. Gillespie
Special to The CS&T
In a solemn yet consoling liturgy, Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald was bid farewell by thousands of mourners at a funeral Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.
McDonald was the fourth Philadelphia policeman in the line of duty to be buried from the Cathedral in less than a year.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, celebrant and homilist, told the assembled mourners, including hundreds of police officers from as far away as Washington, D.C., that McDonald “belonged to all of us.”
“He was part of our community, a public servant of our city, friend our people. He was likewise a member of our Catholic Church,” said the Cardinal.
Before Mass began, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced that McDonald had been promoted to the rank of police sergeant posthumously and that both his new badge number, 398, and previous badge number, 2381, would be retired permanently as a tribute to his valor and integrity.
“He accomplished more in eight years on the force than some do in 30 years. Philadelphia is a better place because of Pat McDonald,” Ramsey said.
Mayor Nutter said Philadelphia had lost a hero, son, brother, neighbor, friend, and public servant. He urged all “to recommit to making Philadelphia a better place.”
George Gillin, McDonald’s uncle, paid tribute to his family: his father Larry, a retired firefighter; his mother Patricia and his sister Megan, a lawyer with the New York City Fire Department. “Where, after all, do such sons and daughters come from?” he asked.
Earlier, thousands of mourners had filed past the open casket before the Cathedral’s main altar, banked on either side with floral tributes from police units including McDonald’s elite Highway Patrol unit.
In the coffin was a prized diploma awarding McDonald a degree in criminal justice from St. Joseph’s University.
“He was a dedicated officer who loved his job,” said Sergeant Ken McGuckin, who worked with McDonald on the highway patrol unit.
Joe Powel, who coached McDonald for the Police and Fire Department’s Blue Flames Football Club, called him a “great competitor” who played to win. “He was a stand-up guy in every respect.”
Lieutenant Edward Lang of the Philadelphia Police Academy said McDonald always put others before himself, referring to his habit of working holiday shifts so that married colleagues could spend time with their families.
Carla O’Shea said her son, Jesse, a policeman in the 9th district, played with McDonald on the Blue Flames. “He was intensely proud of being a policeman,” she said.
If there was a common thread to the observations about McDonald, it was his love of police work and protecting the lives and safety of others.
“He did everything to the extreme,” said Ramsey. “There was no halfway with him.”
More than 1,500 mourners packed the Cathedral while hundreds more watched the ceremony from the side chapel or outside on a giant jumbotron screen. Television monitors in the Cathedral carried scenes of McDonald’s life during the public viewing which began at 7 a.m.
Concelebrants of the Mass included Father James A. Callahan, pastor of Christ the King Parish, where McDonald was a member; and Jesuit Father Timothy Lannon, president of St. Joseph’s University.
McDonald’s sister, Megan, served as lector while other family members presented the offertory gifts, including McDonald’s girlfriend, Philadelphia Police Officer Joanne Heary.
John Gillespie is a member of St. Bridget Parish and former reporter for the Philadelphia Evening & Sunday Bulletin.
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