Story and photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre was filled to near capacity Wednesday evening, Jan. 10, as more than 800 people gathered there to pray for NYPD Detective Steven McDonald on the anniversary of his death in 2017.

Detective McDonald, a resident of Malverne, was 59 when he died, almost 31 years after he was shot in the line of duty and paralyzed from the neck down. He forgave his 15-year-old assailant and subsequently devoted much of his life to prayer and to preaching to various audiences about the power of love, reconciliation and mercy.

Detective McDonald’s widow, Patti Ann McDonald, mayor of Malverne, and his son NYPD Sergeant Conor McDonald were among the scores of relatives, friends, law enforcement personnel, clergy and consecrated religious that attended the memorial service. The night began with the recitation of the rosary, which was followed by a Mass celebrated by Bishop John Barres. Father Joseph Fitzgerald, diocesan vocations director and a friend of Detective McDonald, delivered the homily.

Nearly two dozen members of the Sisters of Life attended the service. Detective McDonald had developed a strong bond with the religious order, regularly praying with them and supporting their efforts in promoting the sanctity of life.

Kevin Conlon, leader of the St. Agnes Cathedral Detective Steven McDonald Men’s Prayer Group, organized the service with assistance from Fathers Fitzgerald and James Hansen, St. Agnes associate pastor. Detective McDonald founded the prayer group in 2012, a few months after returning from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The group first convened in Detective McDonald’s home with a dozen participants and, after growing in numbers, moved to St. Agnes Cathedral in 2014. It continues to meet monthly on the last Thursday of each month.

“It’s gotten bigger since Steven’s passing,” said Conlon, who co-led the group with Detective McDonald until the detective’s death. “It’s been an honor to take it over from him.”

The prayer group averages about 50-75 participants each month, said Conlon. He is hopeful the attention generated by Wednesday’s memorial service will inspire other people to join the group, which is open to men and to boys who have received the sacrament of confirmation.