Father Joseph Donton – silver jubilarian
Born in Florissant, Missouri, Father Donton attended Bergan High School in Peoria. He earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and youth ministry at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, and completed his studies for the priesthood with master’s degrees in divinity and moral theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
His first assignment was as parochial vicar at Holy Family Parish in Lincoln and chaplain at the Lincoln Correctional Center. He also served as parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights from 1992 until 1994, when he was named administrative assistant to Bishop (now Archbishop) John J. Myers and vice chancellor.
Ministry as pastor and rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria and director of vocations followed from 1997 to 2003. In 2001, he was designated vicar of the Peoria Southwest Vicariate.
Father Donton would serve as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Washington from 2003 to 2011, while also offering pastoral care as administrator or pastor at St. Luke in Eureka from 2006 to 2008. His next assignment took him to St. Patrick Parish in Ottawa and Marquette Academy, where he was a teacher.
He has been pastor of St. Malachy Parish in Rantoul and St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Thomasboro since 2013.
Father Donton will celebrate his 25th anniversary with a bilingual Mass at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 29, at St. Malachy Church. A light reception will follow at The Linden Banquet Center in Rantoul.
Mail for Father Donton may be sent to St. Malachy Church, 340 E. Belle Ave., Suite 1, Rantoul, IL 61866.
How has priestly ministry changed in the last generation?
Fewer vocations means more responsibility for priests engaged in active ministry. Oftentimes this involves multiple assignments. I shepherd two parishes, two cemeteries, a school, and an Hispanic community. I wear many hats. It makes for early mornings, long days and late nights. I like to think of it as a joyful burden. Needless to say, we need to pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Diocese of Peoria.
What drew you to the priesthood?
The example of happy priests. They convinced me that I could be happy living a life of service to the people of God. I smile a lot. Not every day, but most days. Why? I can honestly say that I love being a priest. I am convinced that is who God created me to be.
How are you a different priest today than you were 25 years ago?
I quickly learned that preparing to be a priest, is not the same as being a priest! Most days don’t go as planned. We have to be flexible. Stay calm. Always remember that it is God’s church, not mine.
What has given you the most joy in the priesthood?
Celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There was a saying on the wall of the sacristy at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary that read, “Priest of God, say this Mass as if it were your first Mass, as if it were your last Mass, as if it were your only Mass.” I say this to myself while I am vesting, especially if it is my fourth Mass of the day.
Talk about your prayer life – what feeds you for your ministry?
Quiet time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I look at Him. He looks at me. It’s like a “Red Bull” for the soul. Sometimes I go to the “Drive-Thru” for a quick visit. Other times I make a reservation for a fine dining experience. Regardless of how long it lasts, spending time in the presence of the Lord is always satisfying!