December 2, 2022

Father Donald Buchanan served as a parish priest, teacher and Navy chaplain

By Sean Gallagher

Father Donald Buchanan, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died on Nov. 19 at Norton Hospital in Louisville, Ky. He was 90.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Nov. 28 at American Martyrs Church in Scottsburg. Burial followed at Austin Cemetery in Austin.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass. Father John Meyer, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Greensburg, was the homilist.

An archdiocesan priest for 57 years, Father Buchanan served in central and southern Indiana as a parish priest and as a high school and college instructor and chaplain. From 1995-98, he ministered around the world as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.

That wasn’t his first experience in the armed forces. Before Father Buchanan became a seminarian in the late 1950s, he served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.

In a 2015 interview with The Criterion on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his ordination, Father Buchanan recalled his military service on a hydrogen bomb-armed B-47 bomber at the height of the Cold War.

“I carried the uranium core strapped to my leg all the time in case I had to bail out to protect it, because it was priceless,” Father Buchanan recalled.

It was during his military service, however, that he had a “religious experience.”

“I just kind of surrendered to God,” Father Buchanan said. “I would go to the seminary if that’s he wanted. I felt at peace from then on. Before, everything I had tried I succeeded at. But it never satisfied me.”

He found that satisfaction in his life and ministry as a priest.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” said Father Buchanan. “I wouldn’t want it to be any different.”

That satisfaction continued well into his retirement as Father Buchanan until about a year ago would regularly celebrate Mass and other sacraments, especially in Seymour Deanery parishes.

Father Daniel Staublin, pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour and dean of the Seymour Deanery, described Father Buchanan as “the Energizer Bunny” and appreciated how he embraced his life and ministry as a priest.

“He truly took the servant part of that very seriously,” said Father Staublin. “All those years, he served faithfully in the military. Then he came back home and was certainly a great servant to the parishes here in the Seymour Deanery—always with a smile.”

Father Buchanan also valued priestly fraternity, according to Father Meyer. The two came to know each other when Father Meyer was serving as pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison and Most Sorrowful Mother of God Parish in Vevay. Father Buchanan had previously ministered in both towns.

“He was a good support and friend,” said Father Meyer. “He was somebody I could count on and talk to. He was always affirming to me in my ministry.

“It reminds me to trust that God will continue to use us as priests, even when we think that we’ve completed our mission in parishes.”

Donald Edward Buchanan was born on Sept. 13, 1932, in Madison to the late Hubert and Evelyn (Smith) Buchanan. He was baptized in the former St. Michael Church in Madison and confirmed in St. Francis Xavier Church in Henryville.

After graduating from Austin High School in 1950, Father Buchanan attended Indiana University in Bloomington, participating there in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in education there and a master’s degree at the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana, Father Buchanan served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force for four years during the Korean War.

Upon completing his service in the military, Father Buchanan became an archdiocesan seminarian, receiving priestly formation at the former St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Ky., and the former St. Maur Seminary in South Union, Ky.

Father Buchanan was ordained a priest on May 2, 1965, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad by Archbishop Paul C. Schulte. He celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving on May 9 at American Martyrs Church in Scottsburg.

His first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish and as instructor at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School, both in Indianapolis, serving at both from 1965-66.

He then ministered as associate pastor of the former St. Mary and St. Michael parishes and as an instructor at Father Michael Shawe Memorial High School, all in Madison, from 1966-67.

Father Buchanan next served as associate pastor of St. Patrick Parish and instructor at the former Paul C. Schulte High School, both in Terre Haute, from 1967-70.

From 1971-83, Father Buchanan ministered as a theology instructor at Marian University in Indianapolis and as a chaplain at the Indiana Boys School in Plainfield and the Clermont Girls School in Clermont.

He returned to Madison and Vevay in 1983, serving for two years as an instructor at Shawe, and as administrator of Most Sorrowful Mother of God and the former St. Anthony Parish in China.

From 1985-98, Father Buchanan served as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, ministering in Bahrain, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain and the U.S., retiring with the rank of lieutenant commander.

Father Buchanan retired from active ministry in 1998.

He is survived by two sisters, Mary Ellen Buchanan and Jo Nell Buchanan, both of Austin, and a brother, Hubert Buchanan of Amherst, N.H.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Austin Alumni Association in care of Buchanan Funeral Home, 115 N. Second Street, Austin, IN 47102. †

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