Monsignor Donald W. Shea died on May 17, 2016 at Brendan House. He was born in Butte, Montana on April 15, 1936 to Ed and Agnes Shea. After studies at Carroll College and the St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota, he was ordained for the Diocese of Helena on June 2, 1962. He assisted at Little Flower Parish in Browning, and then served at the Cathedral of St. Helena for three years. In 1965, he became assistant pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Butte. One year later, he was released to serve as an Army Chaplain.
The Army Chaplaincy took Msgr. Shea to many places in the United States and to Vietnam, South Korea, Panama, and Europe. While serving with the Army Special Forces in Vietnam, he was known as the soldier who went into battle with no other weapon than a Mass Kit and a Bible. He received numerous decorations, medals, and badges, including a Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars (one of which is for Valor). Msgr. Shea was a graduate of the US Army War College, and was appointed Army Chief of Chaplains in 1995. He served in that capacity at the Pentagon until he retired as a Major General in 1999.
He earned a master’s degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma; a master’s in education from Long Island University; and a master’s in personnel management from Central Michigan University.
Following his military chaplaincy, he returned to the Diocese of Helena in 1999 and later assigned as pastor for Butte Catholic Community North. In 2003, he began service as pastor of St. Catherine Parish and Blessed John Paul II Parish in Bigfork. In terms of church distinctions, he was named a Prelate of Honor (monsignor) in 1992 and a Protonotary Apostolic (supernumerary) in 2002.
He is survived by his brother Ed and sister-in-law Kari, and a niece and nephews.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday May 27, 2016 at St. John Paul II Catholic Church in Bigfork. A reception will be held at the Church immediately following the Mass. Burial will be at Holy Cross Cemetery in Butte on Saturday, May 28, 2016. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Catholic Youth Rural Outreach (CYRO) at St. John Paul II Catholic Church, P.O. Box 277, Bigfork, MT 59911.