This story is part of a series featured in a commemorative issue honoring Bishop David O'Connell. Read more stories at the Bishop Dave Commemorative Issue web page.
This has been a time of mourning for the family of God here in Los Angeles, as we have lost a beloved friend, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell.
We laid him to rest March 3 following a beautiful funeral Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He was a holy priest and bishop and a man of peace. And we will miss him.
For the Christian, death is not the end, but a new beginning. The saints teach us that in the evening of our lives, we will be judged by our love.
And Bishop Dave loved and served Jesus with all his heart and all his strength. Like Jesus, he loved his brothers and sisters “to the end,” with a special love for those who are often forgotten and those who live on society’s margins.
So we are confident that he is with the Lord in heaven, and of course, that is where we all want to be.
In these days, we have witnessed a great outpouring of affection and support from around the world. The president and first lady sent condolences. Pope Francis, who appointed Bishop Dave in 2015, sent a beautiful message that he asked me to deliver to the family of God.
The Holy Father had appointed two other auxiliary bishops for Los Angeles on the same day as Bishop Dave — Bishop Joseph Brennan, who now leads the Diocese of Fresno, and Bishop Robert Barron, who now heads the Diocese of Rochester-Winona in Minnesota.
In the years after their appointment here, when I would visit Rome, the Holy Father would ask me with a smile about how “the triplets” were doing. He had such genuine pastoral affection for them.
The pope was deeply saddened by Bishop Dave’s death.
In his message for us, he praised his “years of devoted priestly and episcopal ministry to the Church in Los Angeles, marked especially by his profound concern for the poor, immigrants, and those in need, his efforts to uphold the sanctity and dignity of God’s gift of life, and his zeal for fostering solidarity, cooperation, and peace within the local community.”
It is a beautiful remembrance of a life lived solely for Jesus Christ and his Gospel.
An Irish immigrant, Bishop Dave was a good friend to Los Angeles, serving the people of this city for nearly four decades, in some of our poorest neighborhoods. He is still the only person I have ever known who could speak fluent Spanish with an Irish accent.
And while this is a time of sadness and mourning, it was a blessing to see so many of our neighbors, including many who are not Catholic, turning out to celebrate his life.
Over three days of liturgies and a public viewing at the cathedral, thousands came to pray and pay their respects; many more viewed these liturgies on our internet and social media channels. His life was celebrated in mainstream media.
Personally, I will miss the sound of his laughter, and his sense of humor. His episcopal motto was “Jesus, I trust in you,” and the example of his confidence in the Gospel will continue to inspire me.
Bishop Dave everywhere encouraged the “Gospel reflection process” — for families, parishes, and ministries. He would say that the living word of God “becomes real” when we pray and listen to the Gospel with others and share our reflections.
He spoke often about how we need to be “doers” of the word, reminding us of what Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
I will also remember and keep in my heart his warm and filial devotion to Mary our Blessed Mother and his dedication to praying the rosary.
And as we remember his extraordinary life, let us keep him in our hearts and renew our commitment to live as he did — all for Jesus Christ and his Gospel, staying close to Jesus and sharing the love of God with the people in our lives.
Our friend Bishop Dave has reached his destination. As he walked with Jesus and served him in life, in death he shares now in the fullness of his resurrection, in the love that never ends.
So, as we continue to pray for the repose of his soul, let us ask his intercession as we continue our own walk with Jesus on the road to heaven.
We thank God for the gift of his life!
Pray for me and I will pray for you. And let us continue to pray for Bishop Dave’s family; may God grant them peace and consolation.
And let us ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to wrap our friend in the mantle of her love, and with the angels lead him into paradise, that he may rest in peace.