O’Connor’s Calm, St. Patrick’s Day Service Celebrated


July 18 – POTTSVILLE – Although they come from different states, Monsignor Charles J. Parry has stated that he and his friend Monsignor Edward J. O’Connor have followed the paths of ministry.

“We were ordained the same day,” the Maryland native said on May 23, 1981.

More than 100 people gathered at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church for a Christian burial mass to celebrate the life and ministry of O’Connor, the church’s longtime pastor, who died on the 10th July. It was also broadcast live on the church’s Facebook page.

Participants included priests, deacons and seminarians from across the diocese, as well as parishioners of St. Patrick. They were greeted on arrival by black curtains above the entrance to the church.

It was celebrated by Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, and included more than 30 concelebrants from the five counties of the diocese, eight of whom were the main concelebrants. Among them were the pastor of the church, Rev. Philip F. Rodgers, and parish vicar, Rev. Barnabas Shayo, AJ; with Bishop William F. Glosser, VF, Dean of Schuylkill County and Pastor of St. Clair d’Assise Parish in St. Clair and Holy Cross Parish in New Philadelphia; and Most Reverend Edward S. Zemanik, Pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Schuylkill Haven.

O’Connor, 65, died as he was about to concelebrate a funeral at Mahantongo Street Church, where he served for 19 years. He retired last month and became a pastor emeritus.

Schlert declared during mass, that he used O’Connor’s chalice, that O’Connor died “ready to perform another act of priestly mercy”.

While not present, Schlert said he received sympathy calls about his death from Mahanoy City native Joseph Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky; Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg Bishop and native of Pottsville Ronald Gainer; and his predecessors, John Barres and Edward Cullen.

In his homily, Parry, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Rockville, Maryland, recalled their friendship, which began when they both entered St. Pius X Seminary near Dalton, Lackawanna County, at the age of 18. They would later attend Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland, where they were roommates. Some of O’Connor’s classmates were among those present.

Seminarians at the time visited their homes frequently on free weekends, with O’Connor’s family hugging him and Parry welcoming him into his “southern family,” he said.

“We made a hell of a pair,” Parry told the crowd.

He called his late friend, whom he visited often in his church in Pottsville, “a good priest and a good man” who served God’s people to the best of his ability, accepting them without judgment. O’Connor also had a calm and calming disposition, Parry recalls.

Despite health issues, he said that O’Connor’s faith had blossomed and he never complained about these issues.

He said one of O’Connor’s last lessons was to “never underestimate the power of human suffering under Almighty God”, adding that he was “a gift to the church”.

Schlert said at Mass that Saint Patrick “has lost a very good friend”.

The bishop recalled his dedication to youth and through his work with Catholic charities, the “plight of the marginalized and the poor”.

During mass, Schlert sent his prayers and condolences to the O’Connor’s family members present and thanked the parish for nurturing O’Connor’s vocation, adding that through his example, more vocations would flourish.

“We are very grateful for the life of O’Connor,” he said. “I pray that Monsignor will always influence the life of the church.”

Contact the author: clee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6028; @Cleespot on Twitter

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