TRENTON, NJ - Coadjutor Bishop David M. O’Connell, a Vincentian priest, well-respected media commentator on Catholic issues and the 14th president of The Catholic University of America, was ordained July 30 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, before nearly 1,000 members of his family and friends, and representatives of his new home, the Diocese of Trenton.
The Rite of Ordination was conducted by Bishop John M. Smith, whom Bishop O’Connell will succeed upon the Holy See’s acceptance of Bishop Smith’s resignation. (Bishop Smith submitted his resignation on his 75th birthday, June 23, in accordance with Church law; the date it will be accepted by Rome is not yet known.) Serving as co-ordaining bishops were Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark.
The event drew participation from four cardinals, all of whom have come to know Bishop O’Connell through his 12-year tenure as president of The Catholic University of America, Washington. They are: Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore.
The Mass was concelebrated by some 45 bishops representing dioceses from around the country and more than 250 priests. Also in attendance were Bishop O’Connell’s mother, June, of Langhorne, Pa.; his brothers and extended family; representatives from his Vincentian family; the CUA community who traveled from Washington; colleagues and friends who have known him through CUA or his earlier assignments and ministry, and representatives of every parish and school in the Diocese of Trenton.
In addition to those who were in attendance at the ordination, tens of thousands of well-wishers followed the ordination live as it was streamed through the diocesan website, dioceseoftrenton.org, and aired live on the Eternal Word Television Network through their local cable providers. An even larger number will have watched the ordination in repeat telecasts on EWTN, Catholic TV and on demand online viewing.
Born April 21, 1955, in Philadelphia, grew up in Langhorne, Pa, one of four sons of June O’Connell, a resident of Langhorne, and the late Arthur J. O’Connell. His brothers, Arthur Jr., Dennis and Daniel, all reside in the Philadelphia area.
His family are long-time members of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, Pa. He attended the parish grammar school, where he was taught by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. Knowing from an early age that he wished to pursue the priesthood, Bishop O’Connell attended the Vincentians’ St. Joseph Preparatory High School, Princeton. He continued his Vincentian education in Niagara University, New York, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1978.
Bishop O’Connell prepared for the priesthood in Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, Pa., where he received a master of divinity degree in 1981 and a master’s degree in moral theology in 1983. On May 29, 1982, he was ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Mission in Mary Immaculate Seminary by Bishop Joseph McShea of the Diocese of Allentown.
In the years following ordination, then-Father O’Connell served in various capacities in Archbishop Wood High School, Warminster, Pa.; St. John’s University, Queens, N.Y., and Niagara University, as well as advanced his formation in canon law. In 1998, then-Father O’Connell was named the 14th president of The Catholic University of America.
With a national reputation for his writing and media appearances, Bishop O’Connell has written extensively on Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.” He is a frequent guest on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and has appeared on many other national news programs as an expert on Catholic issues.
Among the many highlights of his presidency was the opportunity to serve as a member of the planning committee for Pope Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to the United States in April 2008 and to host the pope at CUA, where he delivered an address to Catholic educators. In the fall of 2009, then-Father O’Connell announced his plan to resign from CUA in the summer of 2010.
Bishop O’Connell has selected as his Episcopal motto: Ministrare non Ministrari, meaning “To serve and not be served.” It is taken from the Gospel reading that was proclaimed at his priestly ordination in 1982, and the Gospel that was proclaimed again at his Episcopal ordination.
Established in 1881, the Diocese of Trenton is comprised of Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties with a Catholic population of 830,000. The diocese has 211 priests, 338 permanent deacons and 450 religious men and women serving in 111 parishes, 36 Catholic elementary schools and 8 high schools. More information can be found at www.dioceseoftrenton.org.