Archived Story

Fr. Potts 50 years a priest

Published 10:35pm Monday, May 10, 2010


CASSOPOLIS – My call to the priesthood is vividly etched in my memory.

I was 6 years old, seated next to my mother at Sunday mass, when I pointed to the priest and said “I want to be one of those.”

I didn’t really know what “one of those was” but I knew I wanted to become one.

My family lived across from Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newark, N.J., but neither my parents nor we children had been baptized at the time.

Our friends who were Catholic modeled their faith in a way that drew us to their parish and made us want to be a part of it.

I was the seventh of 13 children.

One day when I was about 7 years old, my mother returned home after morning mass and gathered all of us around her to share something special.

She told us that she had been baptized that morning, how she felt and what she had done to prepare for this important occasion, and asked if we would like to become baptized, too. All of my siblings and I anxiously agreed that “yes” we would. There was no formal RCIA class for children at the time but we prepared for and received the sacraments.

Since we lived across from the church and grade school, my brothers and I often served at daily mass and were privileged to participate is special liturgical celebrations throughout our childhood.

I traveled across the city by public transportation to attend a Catholic high school and, upon graduation, entered Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Wawasee, Ind.

My novitiate was completed in Hastings, Neb., where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Language from Hastings College and then returned to Indiana’s Sacred Heart Seminary in Fort Wayne.

My ordination as a member of the Crosiers Order Priests took place on May 28, 1960, at Immaculate Conception Cathedral. I was the first priest from my home parish in Newark and the first black priest in my order.

As a newly ordained priest, I returned to Our Lady of the Lake Seminary in Wawasee.
I taught Spanish, Latin, English, history and religion and served as Assistant Dean of Discipline from 1961 to 1975.  In 1969 I received my master’s  degree in Spanish literature at the University Of Madrid, Spain.

When the Crosiers left Indiana for Minnesota, I stayed in the Midwest and became a diocesan priest for the Diocese of Kalamazoo. My first parish assignment was in Bridgman. Then I spent seven years as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Three Rivers, and three years as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Paw Paw before settling as pastor at St. Ann Parish in Cassopolis for the past 23 years.

Although life has not been without challenges (two bouts of cancer and surgery that affected my vocal chords as well as rebuilding the inside of the church after an arsonist set fire to the sanctuary a week before Christmas in 1994) I am blessed.  I can’t sing as well as I used to and my voice is weak at times, but I could have lost it completely during the surgery.  The restoration of the church allowed for improvements that have benefited our parish family over the years.

Although I will celebrate my 50th Anniversary of Priesthood in May, I have no desire to retire soon.  With the grace of God, I will continue to experience good health and the ability to serve the people of Southwestern Michigan.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Ordination  to the Holy Priesthood of Fr. Donald G. Potts, the people of St. Ann Parish Community  are hosting a eucharistic celebration Sunday May 16 at 1 p.m. at 421 North Broadway St., Cassopolis with dinner immediately following

RSVP to (269) 445-3000 or

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