California’s bishops announced they are launching a new restorative justice initiative in honor of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell.
“The Shalom Project,” which partners the California Catholic Conference’s (CCC) Diocesan Restorative Justice Directors and Santa Clara University, will feature a yearlong series of workshops that teaches and promotes peace and reconciliation through Gospel reflections, trainings, resources, and support, starting March 21.
O’Connell was chair of the CCC’s Restorative Justice Standing Committee, which is overseeing the project, prior to his Feb. 18 murder. Debbie McDermott, associate director for Restorative Justice at the CCC, said O’Connell was a driving force behind the project.
“He just felt that we needed to have this space to be together and visit one another ... to have the building blocks of restorative justice toward being peacemakers,” McDermott said.
Since his death, O’Connell has been remembered by many as a peacemaker, bridge-builder, and someone who could bring people to Christ despite their situations in life.
For the first event, Father Stan Bosch — who worked closely with O’Connell since the 1990s to help families’ needs — will talk about what restorative justice is, what the group does, and will feature the Gospel reflection process where people will break out into small groups and share stories about what they heard and where this might help them.
Future presentations and speakers will focus on what Catholic teachings and Jesus teaches us about justice, how to conduct restorative justice listening sessions, ministry work currently being done, and more, McDermott said.
But at the center of it all will be O’Connell’s influence.
“Bishop O’Connell worked to bring all people into ‘right relationship’ with God and one another,” California Catholic Conference’s news release said. “He befriended them, counseled them, prayed for them, and loved them. He went to where there was injury in need of God’s love and accompanied the wounded in his midst. That he died at the hands of another seems unimaginable. Still, it begs a just response — a response that considers all those impacted and works to bring healing and peace to all. A just response as modeled by his beloved friend and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The first event in the series will be held online at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21. The event is free and open to anyone. Those interested in registering for the event can do so at restorejustice.com.