- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Andrew McDonald, the Roman Catholic bishop of Little Rock who led the statewide diocese for nearly three decades, has died. He was 90.

Dennis Lee, the diocese’s chancellor for administrative affairs, said McDonald died in Palatine, Ill., where he moved after stepping down in 2000. He became a chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor there in 2002 and retired last year.

“Please pray for the happy repose of his soul,” said the current Bishop of Little Rock Anthony Taylor.

McDonald had been a parish priest in Savannah, Ga., when Pope Paul VI tapped him to lead the Arkansas diocese in 1972. He had been to the state only twice before, according to a biography on the diocesan website.

As part of post-Vatican II reforms within the church, McDonald reinstated having permanent deacons in 1978, opening a consecrated life to married men. He invited Mother Teresa to open a home for unwed mothers in Little Rock in 1982. He also worked across theological borders - promoting a Billy Graham crusade at War Memorial Stadium in 1989.

McDonald often used jokes, no matter how old, to make a point about the human condition. He delighted in new audiences: Humor that would draw groans at a Sunday Mass would elicit chuckles at Boy Scout merit badge camps he would attend from time to time.

Mother Marguerite McCarthy, who runs the Little Sisters of the Poor facility, said working with McDonald was a “privilege.”

“He was a very kind man. He was a very holy man. He was a very dedicated person,” she said. “He loved God and his church and loved the people and showed it through his kindness and his ability to listen.”

McDonald’s health had declined in the past year, more so in the past month, McCarthy said. She said the home’s staff and residents were with McDonald, singing and praying for him, when he died.

“It was just the way he would have wanted it. A very beautiful death,” she said.

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