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Oh, Brother! Bishop-Elect’s Older Sibling Gets Personal

By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO — “... so I go on vacation and look what happens! Congrats John Dolan!”

That’s what Matt Dolan, director of information technology for the Diocese of San Diego, posted on Facebook April 19 in response to his brother’s appointment as San Diego’s new auxiliary bishop.

Dolan and his wife, Jean, were vacationing in Hawaii when they learned of the big news.

Though the new assignment will mean “a lot of extra work” for a priest who is “already a pretty busy guy,” Dolan believes his brother is more than up to the task.

“He’s built for service,” he said.

That passion for serving the Church, he explained, is something the Dolan children inherited from their parents, Gerald and Catherine, who were models of active parish involvement.

“If things need to be done, you just jump in and you do it,” Dolan said, summarizing his parents’ approach. “It was just part of the upbringing that we all were given.”

While his brother has served the Church as a priest, Dolan has done so through his technological savvy and through music ministry. In addition to his work for the diocese, he is also director of music at The Immaculata Parish.

“I think my parents wanted more of us to be priests than just the one, but they’re doing pretty good,” he quipped, noting that the family’s one priest is about to become a bishop.

The sixth of nine children, Dolan is the auxiliary bishop-elect’s senior by two and a half years.

As might be expected in a household with nine children, rambunctiousness and hijinks abounded. For example, it was not uncommon for whichever child was washing the dishes to turn the spray hose toward one of his or her siblings in the adjacent room. 

“We all took turns doing that,” Dolan recalled, confirming that the future auxiliary bishop at various times found himself on both the giving and receiving ends of this regular occurrence.

While it’s unlikely that Bishop-Elect Dolan was practicing the Rite of Sprinkling with Holy Water on these occasions, there was at least one example of childhood play that hinted at his eventual vocation: At age 7 or 8, he would celebrate pretend Masses.

“He would go get Wonder Bread and squish it down really tight and make Communion wafers, and he would distribute them to my sisters,” Dolan recalled. “We always thought, ‘Okay, he’s going to be a priest.’”

As the diocese’s IT director, Matt Dolan has had an office at the diocesan Pastoral Center since September 2010. Five and a half years later, after being appointed vicar for clergy, Bishop-Elect Dolan moved into the building as well.

Though their offices are on different floors and their departments’ duties do not overlap, Matt Dolan said “it’s just really nice” being able to run into his brother in the halls or to go out to lunch with him.

He doesn’t know whether his brother, like many auxiliary bishops, will go on to head another diocese someday.

“It would be nice,” he said. “But hopefully not too far away.”

The Southern Cross

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