Robert D. Kiernan
Robert D. Kiernan
  • December 28, 1924 - January 9, 2018
  • Roswell, Georgia

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Georgian at heart with a Boston accent

Msgr. R. Donald Kiernan, beloved and longtime priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, died Tuesday, Jan. 9. He was 93.

He was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, on Dec. 28, 1924, the son of Thomas F. and Lena V. (Doherty) Kiernan. In March 1945, he entered Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 4, 1949, by Cardinal Richard Cushing, of Boston.

Driving to Georgia for his first assignment, he pulled into a roadside cornfield to dress before reporting for duty as assistant rector of the Cathedral of John the Baptist in Savannah. At the time, the Diocese of Savannah included the entire state of Georgia.

Msgr. Kiernan served the new Atlanta Diocese from the time it was established in 1956. His pastorates from 1956 to 1985 included St. Peter Church, LaGrange; St. Bernadette Church, Cedartown; St. Michael Church, Gainesville; St. Anthony of Padua Church, Atlanta; St. Jude Church, Sandy Springs; and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Atlanta. He brought his signature song “Butter Beans” and founded the annual Hoe Down as pastor of All Saints Church in Dunwoody beginning in 1985, retiring in 2011. Named a monsignor in 1969, Msgr. Kiernan also served in a variety of roles for the archdiocese, including education, the Metropolitan Tribunal, priest personnel and as vicar general from 2000-2005.

He was especially active as an ambassador to community and statewide organizations as metro Atlanta grew. He was a colleague to Georgia governors and Atlanta mayors over the decades, in addition to chiefs of police and public servants. He combined his lifelong love of people and law enforcement founding the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and serving as its director and chaplain for over 20 years. He was also a chaplain to the DeKalb County police, Metropolitan Atlanta police, Georgia State Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation and local division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Bringing his style and sense of humor to the table, Msgr. Kiernan served as an editor of The Georgia Bulletin for 13 years, beginning in 1966. He was a chaplain for the Knights of Columbus and active in Boy Scouts in metro Atlanta. He received several honorary doctorates, including from Providence College, his alma mater, and Georgia State University.

His joy in the company of others continued into retirement. He “held court” at his weekly Monday dinner club, enjoyed evenings out at Alpine, and attended 5pm vigil Mass at All Saints. He faithfully heard confessions as OLPH for more than a quarter century until the very end.

A vigil and rosary for Msgr. Kiernan will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at All Saints Church, 2443 Mt. Vernon Road, Dunwoody. A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 11 a.m. at All Saints. The celebrant will be Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III. A reception will follow. Interment will follow at a later time at the parish’s columbarium.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Msgr. Kiernan’s memory may be made to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home, 760 Pollard Blvd., SW, Atlanta, GA 30315,

He is survived by the children and grandchildren of his four siblings and the countless friends with whom he shared a red wine and Diet Coke.