When Bishop O’Connell Stunned a Crowd and ‘Sobbed’ Before the Blessed Sacrament
Register stories published before LA Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell’s death offer revealing glimpses of his remarkable life and ministry.
Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, who was murdered Saturday at his home in Hacienda Heights, California, was no stranger to the National Catholic Register. Here are excerpts from three articles in the Register’s archives covering his episcopal ordination in 2015, his battle to defend innocent life in 2016 and his heartfelt response to the sexual abuse crisis in 2018.
‘You Could Have Heard a Pin Drop’
During [a] healing service for the Southern California Renewal Communities convention at the Anaheim Convention Center, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles held aloft the monstrance containing Jesus in the Eucharist. But attendees heard the bishop weeping in the silence and saying the name of Jesus over and over.
Mary Rashid, a member of the Orange County Magnificat group, told the Register that she had never experienced anything like the Aug. 31 event in her life. The rays of light off the monstrance placed on the altar seemed to pierce every heart present, and the convention center became so quiet as they heard the bishop crying as he knelt before Jesus in the monstrance.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” she said. “He just sobbed.”
As the Catholic Church reels from revelations about the role of bishops and chanceries in the cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors and adults, two central questions have been in the minds of many Catholics: Where have all the good priests gone, and where are all the bishops?
But the faithful are starting to see heartfelt responses from some priests and bishops that give them hope for shepherds who will work with them for the dawn of renewal in Christ’s Church.
Rashid said the heartrending experience of Eucharistic adoration with Bishop O’Connell felt like she was with Jesus in Gethsemane, weeping for the Church. She said Bishop O’Connell did not act like the priests that “beat around the bush” — but said honestly, “I’m sorry, and this sincerely hurts.” The retelling made Rashid break down in tears.
Others also had a powerful experience of feeling Christ’s presence among them that day.
Anthony Lilles, the academic dean of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, told the Register in an email that Bishop O’Connell repeated Jesus’ name and asked, “How can we console your heart?” He said many people began to weep with the bishop, priests fell to their knees, and many stayed in adoration for a long time.
‘This Is a Failure of Our Love’
California’s assisted-suicide bill will go into effect on June 9, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is fighting back — with prayer.
On June 1, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell celebrated Mass at Santa Teresita, a home for seniors in need of assisted living and nursing services. The Mass marked the beginning of a call to nine days of prayer and fasting for the elderly, disabled and terminally ill.
“This is a challenge to all of us, especially to all of us who have faith,” the bishop said, “to teach always about the infinite value of each human life.”
Bishop O’Connell, who has lived in California for more than 30 years, said the passing of the End of Life Option Act makes it a sad time for the state.
“This is a failure of our love,” he said.
“A failure of heart, really, that we can’t think of anything else we can do for people who have been told that they have terminal illness than to offer them a package of pills, where they can take their own life, and say, ‘Go ahead; just commit suicide.’”
… The bishop also discussed the effects this law would have on the poor.
“In our hospitals, it is the poor who are being advised and counseled more and more towards abortions,” he said.
“Now it’s going to happen, also, I’m sorry to say, with the elderly, the most poor and most vulnerable.”
This novena is just the start for Bishop O’Connell’s mission against this issue: to put faith into practice.
“This novena is to change our hearts, first of all, so that nobody will have to use this shameful option that we’re offering those who are suffering and elderly.”
‘Profound Love for God and for People’
Who are L.A.’s newest shepherds? Bishop O’Connell, who is originally from County Cork, Ireland, works with gangs and police officers.
“He’s worked with the toughest neighborhoods you can think of in the last 26 years,” Father Barrett said. “The police all know him; the sheriffs all know him — they work together and are a good team. He’s known all these people for years. And they are trying to change the environment through the Church. His parish is a block or two away from the street where the most murders occur in Los Angeles.”
“He has a great sense of humor — he’s a stand-up comic — that’s one of his hobbies,” added Father Barrett. Indeed, at the post-ordination reception honoring the new bishops, Bishop O’Connell had the audience roaring with laughter.
“He’s a simple, loving person,” Kieran O’Connell, who came from Ireland for the Mass, said of his brother at AngelusNews.com. “He’s a man of God — he has a profound love for God and for people. He’s always wanted to be a priest.”
- bishop david o'connell