An Inspiring Story of Formation, Faith and the Desire to Serve God
Meet Rev. Jeffrey Donovan
Rev. Jeffrey Donovan was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Michael W. Fisher on June 3, 2023, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo. This central moment in Rev. Donovan’s vocation journey was the culmination of a decision to answer God’s calling to a life of service in the Church that began during his high school years.
Rev. Jeffrey Donovan grew up one of five children in a military family, and following some moving around in his childhood, his family settled in South Buffalo, where he attended school at Western New York Maritime Charter School. The influence of military life in his upbringing and education made it plausible that Rev. Donovan might also pursue a military career path. However, as high school graduation drew near, he found himself contemplating what he was truly supposed to do.
“At that time, there had been kind of a lull in my spiritual life for a while, and I was starting to come back into the Church,” Rev. Donovan said. “I was falling in love with the Church again, and as that happened, there seemed to be this little voice in the back of my mind that was saying, ‘why don’t you try serving the Church?'”
Rev. David Baker, Diocesan Director of Vocations, was assigned at that time as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, Rev. Donovan’s home parish.
“I actually knew Jeff when he was in high school,” Rev. Baker recalled. “He was already involved with the Knights of Columbus. I had heard that he was considering seminary, and it seemed like a good fit to me even back then.”
However, Rev. Donovan had not yet ruled out a military career. He enrolled as an undergraduate at Canisius College in Buffalo and became involved in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) program. And while he once wanted to pursue engineering and physics academically, he opted to major in philosophy and theology instead. Having a foot in both doors gave him the opportunity to see if he was being called more in one direction or the other.
It was when he began to examine the path he was on, his involvement with the ROTC and the options for a military career at the end of it, that he started to question if this would truly make him happy long term. Rev. Donovan admitted that the answer was almost always no, which gave him the courage to shift his focus to the religious calling that had been stirring inside him since high school.
“Serving the Church was a thought that kept returning,” he said. “And as it returned and steeped for a little while, I became more and more comfortable with it and realized that yes, I would be happy doing that, and I believe that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Following his graduation from Canisius, Rev. Donovan spent the next seven years in seminary, five at Christ the King in East Aurora, and the last two at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland. Rev. Donovan completed a pastoral year at St. Amelia’s Church in Tonawanda, and his diaconate year at Nativity of our Lord Church in Orchard Park.
Rev. Donovan is acutely aware of the challenges that the Diocese of Buffalo has been facing over the last several years, and hopes that through living his calling as authentically as he can, it will be a small step in helping restore people’s trust and confidence in the Church and lead them back into a deeper relationship with God.
“A lot of it is about just being present, being willing and able to listen to people. It doesn’t always require responding or having all the answers,” he explained, adding that in his studies, he’s learned that relationships need to be based on both fidelity and justice. “As a priest, fidelity to our role, our call, to the promises we make. And justice as well; justice for the afflicted but also justice for wrongdoings in the past – and our current challenge falls under that. So we need to mend relationships and then continue to uphold good relationships, and I’m going to try to do that
the best that I can.”
“Jeff has always impressed me as a deep thinker,” Rev. Baker remarked as he reflected on the qualities Rev. Donovan possesses that will make him an efficacious priest. “He takes his time and considers his words before he speaks. He also has a peacefulness surrounding him that will comfort people who come to him for counsel.”
Rev. Donovan is eager to begin his first assignment as a priest in Parish Family 1, which includes St. Mary (Canaseraga), St. Mary (Bolivar), SS. Brendan and Jude (Alfred), Immaculate Conception (Wellsville), Blessed Sacrament (Andover), and Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Belmont). He is entering the priesthood at a pivotal time of re-envisioning and revitalizing the Church in the Diocese of Buffalo.
“There’s a lot of renewal going on in the Diocese right now, and I’m excited to be involved in that, not in the administrative sense, but in a sense of truly bringing about renewal,” Rev. Donovan said. “Renewal in the Diocese, renewal in souls, renewal in people—mending relationships, that is also renewal. We need to think about how we do things and if we need to do them differently; be open and be a part of that process – that’s renewal. So I’m excited to be fully engaged in the renewing of the Spirit in the diocese and ministering to the people here.”
Prayer for Vocations
Almighty Father, You have created for us some definite purpose. Grant us the grace to know the path You have planned for us in this life and to respond with a generous “Yes.” Make our diocese, parishes, homes and hearts fruitful ground for Your gift of vocations – Amen.