anzac day day

Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Anzac Day, we will post a series on MSC World War I chaplains: Fr James Gilbert, Fr Aubrey Goodman and Fr Patrick Donovan.  We have featured Fr Edward McGrath several times already. Googling has brought up both family and military service on Fr Donovan (an uncle of Fr Patrick McGuane MSC). It is lengthy but gives a substantial picture.


DONOVAN, Patrick Joseph
Roman Catholic Priest
Chaplain 4th Class

Son of David DONOVAN
Of Pirron Yalloak, Vic.

Resided Kensington Monastery, Kensinton, NSW

Aged 30 years

Enlisted 02 April 1916 for Continuous Service

Embarked 04 April 1916 per 'HMAT Euripieds' from Melbourne, Vic.
​​Pay rate of 19s 0d after embarkation


Patrick, the youngest Donovan, was born at Laang in 1886. He was only 10 when his Mother died in 1897, three months after the Family moved to Pirron Yallock. His sister May (Mrs. O’Keeffe), took over the role of Mother to the young Patrick, so that he then spent most of his time at The Ridge at Garvoc, and went to the Catholic School there. From there he went to St. Patrick’s College in Ballarat as a boarder, and on 20 May 1904, two days after the marriage of his sister Margaret, he left to join the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at Douglas Park, N.S.W. He was then just under 18 years old, and after eight years of study he was ordained a priest in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, in 1912.

In 1915, having enlisted as an Army Chaplain, he sailed on the Euripides and served in Palestine until the end of the war in 1918. He was anxious to go to France but did not go there, though he did go on furlough to Ireland where he met some of the relatives. Unfortunately we have no record of this, though it can be presumed he went both to Balinderry and to Clonakilty.

After the war he resumed his priestly duties at Kensington Monastery and in the Randwick parish. He wrote occasional articles for The Annals, a monthly periodical of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Relatives from Victoria, (mainly honeymooners) looked him up, and were always struck by his hospitality, his love of Sydney which he showed them with obvious great pride, and the depth of his family ties. On occasion he paid visits to Victoria, and for a time was stationed at Ascot Vale Parish on relief work. Among the Sydney relatives he was specially devoted to Brother Newman, a Chistian Brother, to the Groghan Family, descendants of Mary Donovan (O’Leary), who adopted him as one of their own so that he was always happy to celebrate family occasions with them.

His health began to fail and he was appointed as Chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Randwick, where his attention was turned to the aged, who greatly loved him. It was a source of great joy to his sister May, that when she lay dying, he was able to come from Sydney and to bring her Holy Communion each morning after celebrating Mass in the Noorat church.

After leaving the Chaplaincy at the Little Sisters of the Poor he returned to the Monastery at Kensington and settled into the routine of Community life. He tended the garden with great interest, and he brought many trees and shrubs there from the Heytesbury and from the Laang Forest. He also attended the University of Sydney, taking up a study of the Chinese language in his later years – and it is said he was something of a thorn in the side of his Lecturers because of his detailed knowledge of the language. Astronomy was another subject he pursued at some depth. He spent many long hours in the Chapel, and his articles in the Annals were all on the Spiritual Life. He was also a keen billiards player, a very pleasant companion, but a most upright man who was already to withstand anything which he thought unkind, unfair or just not right.

Father Pat died in Lewisham Hospital on 11 April 1957, aged 70. When asked on his deathbed if he had any message for his two sisters still living, he replied, “Keep the flag flying”. He was visited in his last hours by Cardinal Gilroy, by his own Provincial Fr. Kerrins, by a former A.I.F. Chaplain Fr. McAuliffe, and by his own nephew Fr. Patrick McGuane M.S.C., who came from Hobart to be with him at the end. He is buried among the members of his Order at Douglas Park.

Shortly after the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917, the idea of a Catholic pilgrimage was mooted by the Senior Catholic Chaplain of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF), Fr Felix Couturier OP, to Major-General Weston, the Deputy Adjutant General, who was a Catholic and sympathetic to the proposal.

The Force Commander, General Sir Edmund Allenby, whom Weston was bound to consult, was a deeply religious man who knew his Bible well, and cared much for the Holy Land and its antiquities. He had issued army orders prohibiting wanton damage to historic buildings or the felling of ancient trees. When Jerusalem fell, Allenby walked into the city as a pilgrim, he could not have been anything but sympathetic.

However, because of many constraints the proposed pilgrimage was delayed. This was fortuitous, because the date eventually chosen was 15 August 1918 - Assumption Day. Although it was not known at the time, that was almost the eve of the last offensive of the war in the Middle East.

Operational necessity limited the number of pilgrims to 1500; but every unit of the EEF was allocated vacancies. Considerable logistical planning was necessary for the movement of pilgrims to and from Jerusalem in the shortest possible time, and their accommodation and food while in the Holy City. All Catholic chaplains in the Middle East attended and led their own contingents, which were quartered in camps around the ancient walled city.2

Following Mass and breakfast, the pilgrims assembled near the Jaffa Gate to be welcomed by the Military Governor. Then, guided by a Dominican lay brother, with the procession led by a sergeant-major carrying a large silver crucifix loaned by St Stephen's Church, they followed a route described by Dom Bede Camm, OSB, who was there:

'Down the steep hill from the gate into the Valley of Hinnom, and thence up the Mount of Evil Counsel on the other side, on the road to Bethlehem, as far as the eye could see, stretched the long ranks of soldier pilgrims, two deep - English, Scots, Irish, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, South Africans, British West Indians, and even some Catholics from the Indian Army.' 3

The military chaplains were interspaced down the column and led the troops in reciting the Rosary. The first destination was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the Franciscan guardians, wishing to honour the occasion, had exposed the Column of Flagellation. None present could fail to assimilate the historic significance and grandeur of the occasion.

To accommodate all the pilgrims in the church at the same time was impossible; therefore the column of troops was divided into sections. As each section entered the rotunda, the Franciscan friars burst exultantly into the Te Deum. To those present the experience was unforgettable. All knelt and a chaplain led the devotions. After prayers, the pilgrims filed out of the basilica and another section entered

When all had prayed, the procession reformed and moved along the Via Dolorosa, passing under the arch of Ecce Homo to St Stephen's Gate and going down the steep hill all could view the site of the Garden of Gethsemane. At St Anne's Church Mass was celebrated by Msgr Felsinger, the Austrian patriarchal vicar.

'It was an inspiring sight that met one's eyes The big church was packed. The general [Weston] and the officers had seats in the nave, but the choir, sanctuary, nave, aisles, were thronged with men, some sitting on the ground, others standing pressed together so closely that the priests had the greatest difficulty in getting to the altar. I shall never forget facing that great throng of bronzed men who had been through so many dangers, endured so many hardships in order to deliver Jerusalem.

'It was wonderful to hear them sing the familiar hymns during the Mass that followed. I have never heard anything like that Faith of Our Fathers shouted from fifteen hundred lusty throats, and it was even more wonderful to kneel in the hush and the stillness that fell on that great crowd when the bell rang out and the Host was raised. I don't wonder that the celebrant burst into tears and could hardly go on with the Mass. He told us afterwards that he had never been so moved in his life, and he wrote a detailed account of the pilgrimage to Rome, which (as I found later on) had delighted the Holy Father.'

A sandwich lunch in the grounds of St Anne's followed, then came the most impressive part of the pilgrimage, the Way of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa. At each Station a chaplain preached as the men knelt on the cobblestones, and they sang the Stabat Mater between Stations.

After two hours of prayer, the Way ended at Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre where Fr Parisotti OSB, a British chaplain, preached the sermon. The procession terminated at St Stephen's, where the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land offered Benediction and gave a Papal Blessing which had been requested and granted by telegraph.

The following morning Requiem Mass was celebrated by the senior chaplain Fr Couturier - the Mass server was General Weston. That Mass was offered for all the dead of the war.

The pilgrims then dispersed after a strenuous twenty-four hours, and began the journey back to their units to take part in the last great offensive that was to end the war against Turkey.

The Australian and New Zealand chaplains who would have attended the pilgrimage were: Fr Thomas Mullins, MC, 2nd Light Horse Brigade (LHB), Senior Australian Chaplain, Fr Patrick Donovan, 1st LHB, Fr Bede McDonnell, 3rd LHB, Fr Patrick Killian, 4th LHB, Fr J. Duffy, NZMB, and possibly Fr Francis-Regis Courbon, MSC, 5th LHB.

The soldiers in most cases were the survivors of campaigns in Gallipoli, Serbia, Macedonia, and Mesopotamia, in addition to the battles in Sinai and Palestine. They were war-weary, thankful they had survived thus far, but knowing that at least one more battle lay ahead. They had much to pray for.