Pope Francis’ ambassador to the U.S. remembered late Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles as “a model of synodal service, combined with eucharistic charity” in an address to the country’s Catholic bishops Thursday.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., made the remarks in a speech largely focused on the ongoing Synod on Synodality at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring Plenary Assembly in Orlando June 15.
“Here was a shepherd who immersed himself in the reality of his sheep, who walked with them, and was with them in finding a way no matter the difficulty of their circumstances,” said Pierre of O’Connell in remarks at the beginning of the meeting’s morning public session.
“Since he followed the compass that always pointed him to Christ, may he rejoice now at his destination; and may his intercession help us, his brothers who are still on the journey,” added Pierre to applause from the bishops.
O’Connell, who was killed in his home in February, was also remembered moments before Pierre’s address during a moment of prayer for bishops who have died since the bishops’ last gathering in November 2022.
The native of Cork, Ireland, was appointed a bishop by Francis in 2016 after serving as a pastor in LA’s inner city for nearly three decades. He was particularly known for his work promoting evangelization efforts, pastoral care for immigrants, and ensuring the future of his region’s Catholic schools.
Before his murder, O’Connell served as chairman of the bishops’ subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
In his address, Pierre compared the ongoing synodal process to a compass, rather than a “GPS,” and described it as “less about a ‘program’ and more about a way of being Church,” a novelty he acknowledged could present challenges to the bishops.
“You know the direction you need to take to arrive at your destination,” said Pierre. “But discerning how to get there requires close attention to your immediate surroundings, which involves patient and careful observation.”
“We as Church know the direction we are going: Jesus Christ and his kingdom are the ‘true north,’ ” added Pierre. “But to find the proper path, we have to immerse ourselves in the reality of our people and listen carefully to the questions and concerns of their hearts.”
It was during Pierre’s remarks on synodality that the French-born archbishop made a point of remembering “a bishop who was a model of synodal service, combined with eucharistic charity: our brother who returned to the Lord four months ago, Bishop Dave O’Connell.”
Pierre also highlighted Catholic service agencies like Catholic Charities, the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino ministry in 2018, and the work of small grassroots apostolates around the country as “examples in which synodality is already at work in the U.S.”