Ed Cohen | August 28, 2017
The Urban Plunge. Summer service projects. The Center for Social Concerns. Father Don McNeill, CSC, ’58, the man whose hunger and thirst for social justice created a culture of service learning inspired by Catholic social teaching that still beckons more than 85 percent of Notre Dame undergraduates toward volunteer work each year, died Thursday, August 24, at Holy Cross House near the Notre Dame campus. “Padre Don” was 81. Ed Cohen wrote this story in 2002, when McNeill stepped down as the center’s founding director after 19 years. We feature it this week as the University community remembers and mourns a priest who lived for others. —The Editors
Considering he’s been a priest for 37 years and considering all he’s accomplished as head of the Center for Social Concerns, it’s startling to hear Father Don McNeill, CSC, ’58 say that at times he questioned his worthiness to continue being a priest.
This summer McNeill, 66, will step down as executive director the Center for Social Concerns, which he helped found in 1983. The Holy Cross order has granted him a year’s sabbatical to travel, relax and study, after which he plans to work in an inner-city Latino neighborhood in Chicago.
“I’m not retiring. I call it transitioning to another ministry, another call.”
Replacing him as center director will be Father William Lies, CSC, ’93M.Div., a guest scholar in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Lies is the identical twin brother of Father Jim Lies, CSC, ’87, former rector of Zahm Hall and former director of spirituality and retreats for Campus Ministry.
Don McNeill is the second of three sons of radio pioneer Don McNeill, whose Breakfast Club variety show was the longest running program in network radio history. It was broadcast live from 1933 to 1968. The elder Don McNeill died in 1996.