Since his death in February, a photo capturing a lighthearted moment of Bishop David O’Connell with some young fans has been stirring hearts among LA’s Catholic school community.
The morning of Dec. 14, 2022, O’Connell celebrated a Mass with students and blessed a new school building at All Souls World Language Catholic School in Alhambra, located in the San Gabriel Pastoral Region where he served as auxiliary bishop.
After the blessing, O’Connell was walking to his car as some transitional kindergarten (TK) students were playing and kicking around a soccer ball in the school courtyard. The children swarmed the bishop, who stopped to talk to them. Then O’Connell did something that surprised everyone: he picked up the ball and put it in his miter.
“After all these years, I finally figured out what my hat is for!” he joked.
All Souls principal Maria-Elena Navarro said the moment perfectly captured the Bishop Dave her school had come to know and love in recent years.
“He wasn’t in bishop mode in that moment,” recalled Navarro, who was walking ahead of O’Connell when the photo was taken. “Interacting in a Christlike, loving way with those kids was important to him. I don’t think that moment was an accident.”
O’Connell’s unique sense of humor has been cited by many who have mourned his death, praising his ability to bring Jesus Christ and lighthearted moments to situations of suffering, whether it was with family, with parishioners, or even at his own funeral.