May 27. 2024. 8:50

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Bishop David O’Connell was ‘at ease in the corridors of power and with the powerless’

Irish-born Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, David O’Connell, who was shot dead last month was so beloved in the community that his funeral remembrances took place over three days culminating in his interment in a crypt in a Cathedral on Friday.

Mourners had waited in long lines that stretched outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA over a four-hour period on Thursday to pay their respects to Bishop O’Connell as he lay in repose in an open casket.

Today at 11am local time the Cathedral, which holds three thousand people, was full for his requiem mass. Heartfelt tributes were paid to the 69-year-old native of Glanmire, Co Cork who was ordained as a priest in 1979. He became Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2015.

His nephew, also called David O’Connell, said the late Bishop was the “rock of his family” who liked to be a comedian but “thankfully had a day job that was going a bit better for him”.

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He said Bishop O’Connell was a kindly uncle who always had an encouraging word for them growing up.

The Bishop introduced his nieces and nephews to all LA had to offer when they were young including “Disneyland, Universal Studios” and their favourite breakfast eatery, Denny’s.

Mr O’Connell thanked all those who had assisted in the police investigation following the murder of his uncle. He also appealed to mourners to continue the work of his beloved uncle.

“He was the one we went to for advice and support. We are all heartbroken. But now for me and my family and for everyone who is listening here today there comes an opportunity. We have the opportunity to pick up where he left off and to carry the example that he set.”

He urged all those who attended the mass to “help those you can help.”

“Lend an ear and listen to people. Respect each other. Be considerate and give others the benefit of the doubt. Have patience and give everyone the chance.

“Make sure that those who are close to you know that you love them and are proud of them.”

[ Bishop David O’Connell obituary: Progressive cleric from Cork who spent his life in Los Angeles ]

Monsignor Jarlath Cunnane, a Sligo born friend of five decades to Bishop O’Connell, delivered the homily at the mass.

He said that his friend, who he first met when they studied for the priesthood at All Hallows College in Dublin in 1971, was as at ease with the “movers and the shakers and also with the moved and the shaken”.

“Friendship was something he was good at. He was friends with young and old, with far and wide ... I have heard from people in Peru and South Africa. And of course in Ireland. He had friends up and down the social scale.

“At ease in the corridors of power and with the powerless. I was better for having known David O’Connell.

“He was a friend of souls. David did soul work. He spoke to the soul. He healed souls. He brought peace to souls.”

Monsignor Cunnane recalled his weekly Thursday night meetings for dinner with Bishop O’Connell. He spoke of always seeing his friend approaching him in the parking lot with his dog leash in one hand and his Padre Pio rosary in the other.

He joked that he looked at “him and the dog so at peace that sometimes he fancied that the dog had learned the rosary!”

He said that they always joked about which was the better county – his native Sligo or the Bishop’s beloved Co Cork.

“David always said that there was a big difference between a Sligo man and a Cork man. He said a Cork man might leave without saying goodbye but a Sligo man might say goodbye but he wouldn’t leave.”

Monsignor Cunnane said that “Bishop Dave” was an especially loyal friend to him when he experienced sickness over the last number of years.

“He feared I was going to say goodbye. But I didn’t. I am here. And he was faithful to me all the time I was in the hospital – every day. And now Cork man that he is has left without saying goodbye. We are heartbroken. And yet I feel in all the outpouring of love and esteem and all of the inspiration and all the testimonies this week I feel a presence.”

He said that over the last week many people had shared their last words with Bishop O’Connell.

“They were always words of affirmation. ‘You are a good man, Man you are on fire,’ to quote just a few.”

Monsignor Cunnane said that Bishop O’Connell had a particular fondness for Guinness which he described with his typical comedic touch as being “all black with a white collar – a bit like a priest”.

He offered his condolences to the family of the late Bishop. He thanked the Bishop’s brother, Kieran, his sister-in-law Paula, his nieces and nephews Ciara, Orla, David, Aoisha, Chloe and Brian for giving Los Angeles the “blessing” of having David O’Connell among them rather than residing in his native Cork.

Archbishop Jose H Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles celebrated the mass. He said that Bishop O’Connell had a “special love for those who are often forgotten and live on society’s margins”.

“Bishop Dave loved and served Jesus with all of his heart and all of his strength. He loved his brothers and sisters to the end.”

Earlier Pope Francis sent a message paying tribute to Bishop O’Connell’s “years of devoted priestly and episcopal ministry to the Church in Los Angeles”.

The Holy Father said the ministry of the late Bishop “was 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, co-operation and peace within the local community”.

“Bishop Dave”, as he was affectionately known among his mostly hispanic congregation, was much admired for his peacemaking efforts during the 1992 riots in LA following the acquittal of four white policemen on all but one charge connected with the severe beating of African American Rodney King.

Bishop O’Connell was also an advocate for immigrants. He felt that it was his life’s mission to work with the disadvantaged poor in the wealthiest region of the US.

A man in his sixties been charged with his murder. Carlos Medina is the husband of the Bishop’s housekeeper. There is no known motive for the murder on February 18th.