Praising the Faith and Forgiveness of Detective Steven McDonald

Det. Steven McDonald, last year, at the annual Father Mychal Judge 9/11 Walk of Remembrance. File photo by Daniel Kwak.
Det. Steven McDonald, last year, at the annual Father Mychal Judge 9/11 Walk of Remembrance. File photo by Daniel Kwak.

BY FRANK MEADE | It was sad, but triumphant, day here in the city last Friday, as more than a mile of Fifth Avenue en route to St. Patrick’s Cathedral was closed down for the funeral procession of a police detective and servant of the people of the City of New York, who died on January 10, 2017.

In his 29th year, Steven McDonald was shot by a 15-year-old and paralyzed from the neck down on July 12, 1986, while his wife was pregnant with their son. Among this man’s spiritual advisors and friends was Rev. Mychal Judge, OFM, an FDNY Chaplain who is listed as “Victim 0001” of the September 11 attacks. Detective McDonald memorialized him each year by being among the founders of the Father Mychal Judge 9/11 Memorial Walk of Remembrance, in which the stalwart 10th Precinct Auxiliaries have participated for many years.

Detective McDonald was an outstanding spokesman and training officer for the NYPD — speaking not only at precinct and firehouse roll calls from Tottenville to Eastchester, but at schools and as far afield as Sarajevo. Confined to a wheelchair, relying on a respirator and a deeply devoted cadre to get from place to place, he did outstanding work over the years for community relations. And he did it as a real cop — without fanfare, publicity or want of recognition. By his side always were his wife Patti Ann, his son Conor (named in honor of John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York at the time), his extended family — ranging as far as an Irish priest in England — and his fully dedicated friends within and without New York City’s professional and volunteer public service community. 

Among his most profound acts, which offered proof positive of the man’s pureness of heart, was his public forgiveness of the young man who shot him. To many Catholics it brought to full life Christ’s plea, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

On the day of Detective McDonald’s funeral, several thousand cops from around the world fell into formation along Fifth Avenue — to salute him, offer solace and support to his family and friends, and to quietly, unabashedly, shed tears for a man whose goodness, fortitude and spirit could not be dimmed by some of the worst that life had to offer.

His grandfather and father were NYPD, and his son is a respected-in-his-own-right sergeant. He was an honorable and noble man of highest integrity whose family continues its legacy of dedication to service. He was as revered by FDNY and EMS as he was by his brothers and sisters in law enforcement. Like most of his colleagues, he didn’t look at the job as a guaranteed paycheck and putting in overtime toward retirement. He was one of the vast majority of cops who would never think of withholding or stymieing Police Department honors from being rendered to others in public service regardless of the uniform worn or title held.

He has been taken from us only in the physical sense. While he would have continued making extraordinary contributions to a society which is in desperate need of extraordinary contributions and pure goodness, Detective McDonald was called to his eternal home and leaves us — whether we knew him personally or not — with a powerful, inescapable legacy.

Learn about the man, learn from the man. Contemplate, meditate and grow to understand that goodness is, indeed, in us and shall overcome the evil around us — but only if we foster it.