LOS ANGELES — Speaking to more than 3,500 people gathered for the funeral Mass of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, his nephew, also David O’Connell, took the opportunity to urge everybody to “pick up where he left off and to carry the example that he set” of compassion and caring.
“Help those that you can help. Lend an ear and listen to people. Respect each other, be considerate, and give each other the benefit of the doubt,” O’Connell said. “Have patience and give everyone a chance. Make sure that those who are close to you know that you love them and that you are proud of them.”
The March 3 funeral Mass was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels and celebrated by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles. In attendance were Cardinal Roger Mahony, former archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego.
Bishop O’Connell’s family flew in from Ireland, as did more than 30 bishops from across the country. There were also 300-plus clergy, 32 civic leaders, and 18 dignitaries in attendance.
O’Connell and homilist Msgr. Jarlath Cunnane both opened their remarks to those in the pews with a joke, recognizing, as many have since Bishop O’Connell’s death on Feb. 18, his renowned sense of humor. Thereafter, they each described a selfless man with a strong faith and a big heart.
Like Bishop O’Connell, Msgr. Cunnane is a native of Ireland. They’d been close friends since 1971. Msgr. Cunnane, however, recognized Bishop O’Connell not just as his friend but as “the friend of Jesus Christ” and “the friend of the poor.” He highlighted the way Bishop O’Connell knew the presence of Jesus existed in the strangers around him and always found the good in people.
Speaking about his uncle, O’Connell noted Bishop O’Connell’s selflessness.
“Uncle Dave was an inspiration for us throughout our whole lives, and he will remain so,” O’Connell said. “He taught us that if you have the capacity to help someone, you should do it. All he wanted to do was make things easier for everyone else, and he never asked for a single thing in return.”
The funeral Mass began at 11 a.m. PST. Archbishop Gomez opened the service by remembering Bishop O’Connell as someone who “loved and served Jesus with all of his heart and all of his strength, and 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.”
Archbishop Gomez then shared the recent message sent from Pope Francis, saying he is “deeply saddened to learn of the untimely and tragic death of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell.”
“His Holiness Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to you, the clergy, religious, and lay faithful of the archdiocese,” reads the message, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
To close his homily, Msgr. Cunnane, pastor of St. Cornelius Church in Long Beach, California, recalled an instance from a funeral some months ago in which Bishop O’Connell quoted the “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. In the homily, Msgr. Cunnane took that quote and adapted it with Bishop O’Connell’s name and all of the things that he was known to do.
“Now, David, that you are a part of the great spirit of God, I hear you say, Wherever there is a fight for the hungry to eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a victim of violence needing comfort, I’ll be there. Wherever a stranger, immigrant is to be welcomed, I’ll be there,” Msgr. Cunnane said.
“Wherever there’s a child needing a good education, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a wounded heart, being given healing and peace, I’ll be there,” he added. “Wherever there’s a lost soul given God’s love, I’ll be there. Wherever division and enmity are overcome by encounter and conversation, I’ll be there.”