Msgr. Robert M. O'Connell


Msgr. Robert M. O'Connell, a former pastor of historic St. Peter's parish on Barclay Street, Manhattan, died Aug. 20 at Our Lady of Consolation in the Bronx. He was 82. He was pastor of St. Peter's, the oldest parish in the archdiocese, from 1981 to 1999. In 1983, after the Battery Park City residential complex opened, he established St. Joseph's Chapel there as a mission of St. Peter's. Previously, he was pastor of St. Augustine's in Highland, 1975-1981, and was administrator there, 1974-1975. He retired in 1999 and served as senior priest at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Pelham Manor until 2003. In 2004, he was appointed vicar for clergy. He also was a member of the archdiocesan Mission Band for 12 years starting in 1954. Cardinal Egan offered the Funeral Mass Aug. 23 at St. Margaret of Cortona Church in Riverdale, the Bronx. While at St. Peter's, Msgr. O'Connell served as vice postulator of the sainthood cause of Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a Haitian-born former slave who became well known for his charitable works in 19th-century New York during his 66 years as a parishioner of St. Peter's. Msgr. O'Connell once told CNY that as he studied the life of Pierre Toussaint, he was inspired by him. "I have benefited just thinking of him," he said. "It helps me to see that it's just me and the Lord, and whatever I do I'm doing it for the Lord," he said. Also during his pastorate at St. Peter's, he oversaw the parish bicentennial celebration in 1985. Four years later, he celebrated the 200th anniversary of George Washington's first inauguration with an exhibit that focused on the history of the parish, which was established four years before Washington took the oath of office. In his homily at the Funeral Mass, Auxiliary Bishop Patrick Sheridan, retired as vicar general, called Msgr. O'Connell, "a priest for all seasons and circumstances." Bishop Sheridan spoke of the time that he spent with Msgr. O'Connell on the Mission Band, describing him as a hard worker, full of determination. Msgr. O'Connell was a man of "vigor and openness," and was always willing to lend a helping hand, the bishop said. He recalled Father O'Connell's service throughout the archdiocese, saying that "we mourn the loss of such a vibrant companion." Born in Manhattan, Msgr. O'Connell studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, and was ordained in 1951. He was named a monsignor in 1986. He served at St. Joseph's in Croton Falls, 1951-1952; in Manhattan at St. Emeric's, 1952-1966, and St. Francis De Sales, 1966-1969. He also served in New Rochelle at Holy Family, 1969-1974. Burial was in Calvary Cemetery, Queens.



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