In celebration of the Rev. Dan Madigan, who is retiring after dedicating nearly a half-century of his life to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, a special event was recently held in the Sacramento Delta town of Clarksburg at St. Joseph Church – a place of worship both historically and presently connected with the Pocket area.
The gathering, which included a hosted buffet, some words by Madigan and the singing of various songs, including “Danny Boy,” was held on Sunday, June 29, following the day’s Mass.
In addition to speaking to attendees of the event, Madigan dedicated time to being interviewed for this article.
And in presenting a summary of his life, Madigan began by saying that he was born near the village of Shanagolden in Limerick County, Ireland on March 9, 1938.
Madigan added that he grew up in a family, which included his father, Patrick, his mother, Eileen, and his siblings, Bridie, Kathleen, John, Maurice, Michael, Patrick and Mai.
Madigan also had a sister named Eileen, who died of meningitis shortly before her fifth birthday.
In regard to his upbringing, Madigan noted that he enjoyed his childhood.
“My childhood was great,” Madigan said. “It was in a rural area, a farm, a little village. Everybody was happy. We didn’t have an awful lot. Neither had anybody else, but we didn’t feel we were poor in any way. We grew our own little crops and raised our own meat and so forth. We lived a happy life.”
Among Madigan’s fondest memories of his youth was rabbit hunting with his black Labrador, Brutus. Madigan has also enjoyed hunting during his adult life with Monsignor Jim Church and his father, who was also named Jim Church.
And when it came to the topic of religion during his youth, Madigan noted that about 95 percent of the people in Ireland at that time were Catholic and nearly everyone in his hometown attended Mass.
The pastor in Shanagolden during that era was the Rev. James O’Byrne.
As part of the Madigan family’s dedication to their faith, they got on their knees each night to pray the rosary.
While growing up in a Catholic environment, Madigan decided at a very young age that he wanted to become a Catholic priest.
Madigan spoke about his early desire to take on such a religious role, saying, “It was there from grade school on, I’d say. I didn’t hear any voices calling or anything like that, but I always felt it was the right thing to do. It would be an opportunity to help people and I thought that would be a great vocation in life.”
And Madigan added that he also felt a desire to assist others as a priest in America.
“I was very, very clear that I wanted to come to the United States, because I always had tremendous respect for the United States,” Madigan said. “When we were little children, the United States was always presented to us very, very well. We studied that in school – the United States. We certainly knew all about Lady Liberty and we knew what was written on the statue.”
On June 7, 1964, Madigan was ordained a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny.
After serving as a priest in Limerick County, Madigan fulfilled his dream of coming to the United States.
Having made arrangements to serve the Diocese of Sacramento, Madigan arrived in Sacramento in March 1966 and became the assistant pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
In speaking about his six years with that parish, Madigan said, “Our Lady of Lourdes in Del Paso Heights, we covered Rio Linda and Del Paso Heights. I felt quite challenged there, because people were in need and they were coming to the church a lot.”
Madigan said that while he was serving people in the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, he had an experience that amazed him regarding a particular Sacramento area parish.
“I was at that point (of being) strung out, because I had used all of my volunteers,” Madigan recalled. “I said, ‘Where would I get more volunteers?’ Somebody said, ‘Well, go over to St. Ignatius on Arden Way.’ And I said, ‘Like heck the people of St. Ignatius are going to come down into Del Paso Heights and start feeding people.’ I had big reservations about going over there, (but) I went over there and made an appeal. And (God) opened my eyes. I saw something. There were people coming into Del Paso Heights, driving up in BMWs, Mercedes and so forth, getting out of there, coming in and washing old, dirty pots and everything. And you know what? Everyone was taking care of their own home. But it just showed the inner goodness of people and it was something very nice to see.”