Rev. Dan Madigan to retire after 50 years with Sacramento Diocese

The Rev. Dan Madigan, whose name for decades has been synonymous with the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento’s ministry to the poor, will retire from pastoral duties Sunday.

Madigan grew up in County Limerick, Ireland, and was ordained in 1964. His ministry in the Sacramento Diocese has spanned 50 years, beginning at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Del Paso Heights. He served congregations in east Sacramento and Oak Park, and has spent the past 25 years as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Clarksburg.

But Madigan’s name is most often associated with the Sacramento Food Bank, which he started in 1976. The food bank grew out of his early pastoral experiences in Sacramento’s low-income neighborhoods. Madigan described his assignment to the Del Paso Heights parish as “a grand beginning, where I started working with the poor.”

He retired from the Sacramento Food Bank in 2006, but launched another food ministry in the Clarksburg parish.

“We go in for mobility,” he said, describing the latest effort undertaken with Foodlink, which distributes food to neighborhood food closets. The Clarksburg program delivers to the Florin Road area, as well as Meadowview and Walnut Grove. Madigan noted that the program is able to take advantage of some of the produce grown in the Clarksburg area.

The latest effort also reunited him with John Healey, who collaborated with Madigan in starting the Sacramento Food Bank.

A celebration of Madigan’s 50 years of ministry is scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. Joseph’s Church, 32890 South River Road, Clarksburg.

Madigan grew up on a farm in Ireland and was drawn to the priesthood from his youth.

“We were surrounded by a tremendous amount of spirituality when I was a kid. Church was part and parcel of life,” he said.

“It’s been a good life,” Madigan said of his years in ministry. “The church gave me a grand opportunity to help other people.”

Madigan also has inspired hundreds of volunteers, stressing that the motivation is as important as the deed.

“I want spirituality to be the driving force behind the good works,” he said.

Madigan has always been a parish priest, a role he has savored.

“To be able to preach to people on a Sunday and to present opinions on your religion – that grounds you,” he said. “It keeps you practical.”

Madigan said he is retiring from pastoral duties so he can be more available to his family in Ireland. At 76, he is the youngest, with four brothers and a sister ages 84 to 91. A visit to Ireland tops his retirement plans, but he will return to Clarksburg.

“I’ve got a little farmhouse in Clarksburg,” he said. “I’m going to retire in that little farmhouse.”

Over the years, Madigan said, he has had mules, donkeys, alpacas and geese on the property. Now he’s down to one dog.

“Nellie, my Great Dane, and I will retire together,” he said.