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Rev. Michael O’Donnell will be welcomed as new rector of St. John’s Church, Ogdensburg


OGDENSBURG — The Rev. Michael A. O’Donnell will be installed as the 22nd rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in a ceremony at 11 a.m. today.

The Rev. Mr. O’Donnell, with his wife, Rachel, comes to Ogdensburg from Colorado Springs, Colo., where he worked in various positions with both the Catholic and Episcopal churches.

Born and raised in suburban Philadelphia, Pa., the Rev. Mr. O’Donnell has lived in many places across the country, including Manhattan, Kan., where he received his doctoral degree at Kansas State University, and Rochester Hill, Mich., where he was department head of psychology and social work at Rochester College.

He co-founded the International Family Life Institute with University of Alabama professor Nick Stinnett, and has written numerous books on adolescent development. In 1995 he presented his research to the United Nations in Vienna, Austria.

But the church was always on his mind.

“I’m what’s called a late-life vocation,” the Rev. Mr. O’Donnell said, describing his arrival in the priesthood when he was 45 after a successful career in academia.

Working with the Family Life Institute in Colorado Springs around the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, he decided that his role as an academic was insufficient. “I could see that my students were upset. They were crying; they really needed ministry,” he said. “I couldn’t give them ministry as a professor, so I went to them as a priest.”

The Rev. Mr. O’Donnell, who came out of a home he describes as “nonreligious,” said his parents’ divorce left him searching for stability. His mother lived across the street from an Episcopal church, and a born-again experience led him to commit wholeheartedly to its mission.

“It felt safe,” he said of the church. “Like this was going to be here forever.”

An appreciation for Christian liturgy and understanding of evangelical enthusiasm is something he believes he shares with parishioners in Ogdensburg.

Coupled with the church’s revamped website,, the Rev. Mr. O’Donnell said he hopes to make St. John’s an intergenerational community that strives for community engagement.

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