On Sundays when Trish McDonald was with her dad, her mornings were the same. She sat in awe, staring at intricate designs and red, painted ceilings embellished with gold inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Each detail was memorizing, and she found herself easily lost in thought, admiring the magnificent church.
“I know I spent much of my time looking at the decorations and not listening,” she said Thursday with a laugh. “You could just sit here and look at all of the stuff all the way through Mass and never get bored.”
It was a church that her dad, R.D. McDonald, was devoted to and because of him, she and her siblings Jean McDonald, Maria McDonald, Sharon Young and Rob McDonald also found themselves attached to its great halls and high ceilings. It became their church, too.
On Thursday, the steeple structure located at what was formerly St. Mary’s was renamed the R.D. McDonald Steeple in honor of the McDonald family after their donation to help complete a $2.3 million renovation of the steeple.
The McDonald family, along with grants, tax credits and other donations, helped fund the revitalization of the steeple, said Nicole Gantz, of the Steeple Square Board of Directors.
In 2010, St. Mary’s was deconsecrated and, rather than tear down the more than 150-year-old building, local families and businesses partnered together and turned St. Mary’s into what it is today: a nonprofit organization offering an event venue, child care services, apartments and more.
“We just continue to look for opportunities to see what best fits the space we have and the needs of the community, and in particular this downtown area to help a lot of people launch successful careers,” said Judy Wolf, Steeple Square board treasurer.
Trish McDonald said the city’s downtown would have had a void without Steeple Square. The building is a huge part of the city’s identity and to watch it torn down would have been devastating, she said.
“I think, for me and my siblings, going to church with Dad was an adventure,” she said. “We felt connected there. It was an important part of our lives, and we know how important it was to the community. All of us kids are so proud. This is a lasting tribute to my dad and all the residents in Dubuque.”
John Schmidt, president of Steeple Square and A.Y. McDonald’s chief financial officer, said Steeple Square has been impacted by many generous donors, but Thursday night was a night to recognize the McDonald family for everything they have done to maintain and improve the historic building.
“I think from our perspective, it is an identification of the commitment the family has made not just to Steeple Square but the community,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of donors. The number of donors that have impacted this is tremendous. In this case, we are looking at the steeple, and it is just a chance to celebrate R.D. McDonald.”