Jay Mather / Bee file, 2002

The Rev. Colin Macdonald stands in St. Clare Catholic Church in Roseville shortly before its completion in 2002. The Rev. Macdonald died Feb. 22 of injuries suffered in a fall.

Obituary: Rev. Colin Macdonald, former vice principal of Christian Brothers High School

Published: Friday, Mar. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 - 2:52 pm

The Rev. Colin Macdonald, a Catholic priest who led a fast-growing Roseville parish and oversaw construction of one of the biggest churches in the Sacramento Diocese, died Feb. 22 at 75.

He was in poor health in recent years and died of head injuries from a fall, friend Mel Barror said.

The Rev. Macdonald joined the priesthood after 22 years as a teacher and vice principal at Christian Brothers high schools in Sacramento and other cities. Ordained in 1981, he began serving at St. Rose Parish in Sacramento and was transferred to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Roseville.

He was pastor of All Hallows Parish from 1990 to 1994 before joining St. Clare Parish, which was formed by families moving into booming housing developments in west Roseville. Named pastor in 1996, he oversaw construction and opening of St. Clare Catholic Church at Baseline Road and Junction Boulevard.

Pews in the 28,000-square-foot complex seat 1,100 people, making it the largest house of worship in the diocese after the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. But, at the Rev. Macdonald's suggestion, the interior of the Spanish Colonial structure resembles a mission church rather than a grand cathedral.

"Father Macdonald was a low-key man, very humble but very sincere," said Barror, a St. Clare parishioner who was on an advisory group involved in building the church. "He wanted to maintain the integrity of the Spanish influence and was insistent that we didn't go off and do something garish."

Born Feb. 13, 1938, the Rev. Macdonald grew up in Reedley and graduated from high school in Fresno. He joined the Christian Brothers order, graduated from St. Mary's College in Moraga and was a teacher and vice principal at Christian Brothers schools in Sacramento, Concord and Milwaukie, Ore.

Almost 40 when he decided to become a priest, he graduated from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park. He supported parish Bible study classes and contributed opinion pieces to The Bee's religion pages. He retired from active ministry in 2007.

"He was an excellent priest and was really loved by his people," said the Rev. Liam McCarthy, who succeeded him as pastor at St. Clare, which grew from several hundred families to several thousand. "The success of that parish … is due to the good work he did there."

The Rev. Macdonald is survived by a sister, Rita, of Brentwood.

A vigil is set for 7 p.m. Sunday, and a funeral Mass for 11 a.m. Monday, at St. Clare Church, 1950 Junction Blvd., Roseville.

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