All Roads Lead to Home

All Roads Lead to Home

Some people chart a clear course in life early on, while others wander until they find their way. But some, like Mercy Home President Father Scott Donahue, encounter God on their journey, who asks that they consider a road less traveled. How they respond can make all the difference—for themselves and others.

“I really didn’t come to terms with looking at priesthood in a serious way until after I was in college,” said Father Scott. “When I thought about how I wanted to spend my life, I took it a step at a time.”

He considered a career as an attorney and pursued undergraduate degrees in political science and accounting.

“He would have been a phenomenal lawyer,” his brother Pete Donahue recalled. “But he chose a life of service—to serve these kids and support this mission. It’s been a win-win and he’s lifted by what he’s gotten back.”

Now as Father Scott celebrates his 70th birthday, we look back on the steps taken along a vocational adventure that has occupied more than half of his life—including 34 years working on behalf of young people at Mercy Home.

Pete Donahue recalls his big brother vowing to be a priest at his first communion. Father Scott doesn’t recall declaring his intentions so early, but the germ of the idea was no doubt rooted in an abiding faith that helped sustain him and his family following the sudden death of his father Louis. His mother Marion, now raising four children on her own, sent her oldest son Scott to a Catholic high school.

Pete Donahue recalls his big brother vowing to be a priest at his first communion. Father Scott doesn’t recall declaring his intentions so early, but the germ of the idea was no doubt rooted in an abiding faith that helped sustain him and his family following the sudden death of his father Louis. His mother Marion, now raising four children on her own, sent her oldest son Scott to a Catholic high school.

“I think she was so worried that I’d get lost,” Father Scott concluded. And while he struggled with the decision at the time, he now credits the experience with leading to the steps he later took that ultimately, if indirectly, led to the priesthood and to Mercy Home.

I’ve been so blessed in priesthood. It’s all a gift from God—God has been so generous to me. You get this as a gift, and you try to share it with others.

After graduating from college, he decided to attend the seminary but left after two years. “I wanted to learn more about what I was saying yes to for priestly ministry.”

He went to work at a parish in South Carolina, living fully on his own for the first time. There, he said, he “fell in love” with the people and the life of that parish. The experience firmed his commitment to follow a priestly calling and prepared him for the journey ahead. 

“Without that experience in South Carolina and leaving the seminary, I don’t think I’d be a priest today.”

Father Scott was ordained in 1982 and has served at several Chicago parishes since, including his current residency at St. Robert Bellarmine. In 1985, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin tapped Father Scott to be the director of seminarians for the Chicago Archdiocese where he not only helped to guide the vocational development of future priests, but also future nuns, brothers, sisters, and other ministry.

In 1990, he was invited to join a new board of volunteers to help oversee Mercy Home’s growth and stability. He soon joined the Home’s leadership staff full-time and obtained a master’s degree in social work, adding to the others he had earned by then in theology and in applied spirituality. In 1996, he was named the Home’s Associate President, and ten years later, he became the Home’s eighth president.

In addition to overseeing the expansion of the Home to care for more kids in need, Father Scott founded a new department dedicated to providing tailored academic and career support. And he dramatically expanded what is known today as our Community Care program, which helps our young people succeed after leaving our Home. Both areas helped

Mercy Home respond to the greatest challenge in the organization’s history—the emergence of a global pandemic that upended the way we care for children.

Working closely with epidemiologists and medical professionals, Father Scott was forced to make the difficult decision to transition as many youths back home as possible to limit exposure to the virus.

To support remote learning, our academic team had to retool its services practically overnight. And our Community Care team helped get donations of food and groceries to the struggling caretakers of our kids as they sheltered at home.

I really think the best is yet to come for this organization.

But thanks to the determination of our coworkers and the faithful support of our donors, we were able to weather that storm, and our young people continued to graduate at a rate of 100%.

“The way everyone adapted was nothing less than a miracle,” Father Scott remembered. “We made a promise to all the young people and their families that we’d continue to provide the best of services that we offered to them when they first came to the Home. We were able to keep our promises because of our donors and our coworkers.”

Father Scott is enthusiastic about the future. “I really think the best is yet to come for this organization,” he said. Meanwhile, he expressed his deep gratitude to the compassionate people throughout the country whose support makes this mission possible and to God for walking with him every step of the way.

“I’ve been so blessed in priesthood,” he said. “It’s all a gift from God—God has been so generous to me. You get this as a gift, and you try to share it with others.”

Father Scott has devoted his life to Mercy Home’s mission. Send your best wishes for Father’s 70th birthday by making a heartfelt gift to benefit the children of Mercy Home.

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