“Since his ordination in 1979 Bishop David has served as a priest in Los Angeles but has always maintained his connection with family and friends here in Cork, where has been a regular visitor. We pray that the Lord will console Bishop David’s many friends in Cork and throughout Ireland,” Bishop Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross said in a Feb. 19 statement.
“We will pray for Bishop David at Mass throughout the Diocese of Cork and Ross in the coming days, asking the Lord to comfort his family, his colleagues, and all the bereaved. Bishop David worked tirelessly for peace and harmony in communities; may he now rest in the peace of the Lord.”
O’Connell was ordained during an era when many of the young men from Ireland becoming priests were sent abroad as missionaries, Hayes noted. For his part, O’Connell decided to come to the United States due in part to meeting fellow Irishman Cardinal Timothy Manning, who was then the archbishop of Los Angeles.
“In that providential conversation, the cardinal convinced him that Los Angeles was where he should go. So then he went and trained for the priesthood here in Ireland. The college that he trained at in Dublin is called All Hallows College, and the vast majority of seminarians who studied in that college studied to serve in dioceses in other countries,” Hayes said.
Many priests of a similar age to O’Connell came from Ireland to the United States and continue to minister throughout the country, he said. Beyond his visits back to Ireland, O’Connell was a very faithful supporter of his home diocese’s missions to Peru and Ecuador. Hayes said O’Connell would always warmly welcome Irish missionary priests to his parishes in the U.S., allowing them to preach and fundraise for their mission.
Hayes said his parishioners remain shocked that a person who made such a positive effort in his community could be the victim of such a crime.
“A lot of the people as well, and they’re also just shocked at the loss of what we see as somebody who was contributing very significantly to the life of his diocese and to the people that he was ministering to. And to have his life cut short is just such a shame,” Hayes said.
He said that if anything at all good can come from O’Connell’s murder, it would be a wider recognition of the peacemaking work he did for so many years in Los Angeles.
“It may inspire others to pick up some of the issues that he was advocating for — justice for the people on the margins of society — and to create a world of peace and fairness where people don’t have to be violent to one another. I think if that message gets amplified both in Ireland and in L.A., then that in itself would be a blessing.”