Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., 10th Bishop of Trenton, and former president of The Catholic University of America, was born April 21, 1955, in Philadelphia.
A priest of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Vincentians, Bishop O'Connell grew up in Langhorne, Pa. He is one of four sons of the late June O'Connell, who passed away July 22, 2015, and the late Arthur J. O'Connell, who passed away Aug. 21, 2005. His brothers, Arthur Jr., Dennis and Daniel, all reside in the Philadelphia area.
The family were longtime 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.
Following ordination, Bishop O'Connell's first assignment was as director of student activities and faculty in Archbishop Wood High School, Warminster, Pa., where he served from 1982 to 1985. He then pursued studies in canon law at The Catholic University of America, Washington, obtaining a licentiate in 1987 and then a doctorate in canon law in 1990. He has since received numerous honorary academic degrees from various colleges and universities.
While working toward his canon law degrees, Bishop O'Connell also served as registrar and assistant professor of canon law, theology and philosophy in Mary Immaculate Seminary. In 1990 he joined St. John's University, Queens, N.Y., where he served in various capacities, including professor of theology and religious studies, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, academic dean and dean of faculty of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and assistant to legal counsel. He also spent one year simultaneously serving as interim academic vice president of Niagara University.
In 1998, then-Father O'Connell was named the 14th president of The Catholic University of America. 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.
On June 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI appointed then-Father O'Connell as Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton. He was ordained to the episcopacy by Bishop John M. Smith in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, on July 30, 2010. When Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Smith on Dec. 1, 2010, Bishop O'Connell automatically succeeded him as the 10th Bishop of Trenton.
Since becoming the Chief Shepherd of the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell has focused his efforts on the catechetical development of his flock, the sanctification and cultivation of his priests and the advancement of new vocations. The bishop devoted special attention to the restructuring of diocesan administration in 2011, evaluating and enhancing the deacon formation program, and a review and updating of the Fourth Diocesan Synod, promulgated in 1991.
In October of 2012, as part of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop O'Connell convened the Diocese of Trenton’s first Eucharistic Congress, bringing together some 20,000 Catholics for worship, learning and prayer. He has written extensively, including a pastoral letter during the Year of Faith and several series of essays on the tenets of faith.
In addition to his active support of social service programs throughout the Diocese’s four counties, Bishop O’Connell’s efforts on behalf of the less fortunate include the mobilization of a massive relief effort for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Bishop O’Connell has been a staunch supporter of Catholic education, implementing strategic planning, leadership development and marketing efforts to build sustainability of the Catholic schools in the Diocese.
Outside the Diocese, Bishop O’Connell continues to be an advocate for and a presence in Catholic education and formation at every level and is a former consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.
In 2015, Bishop O’Connell launched two major initiatives in order to bolster the future of the Diocese. An endowment campaign, Faith to Move Mountains, has the goal of $75 million, and is being conducted in parish blocks over a period of two years. The Faith in Our Future initiative is a plan to strengthen parishes through interparochial cooperation, shared resources, and where indicated, parish restructuring. The initiative calls for a decision making and consultation process that will conclude in October, and a decision made by Bishop O’Connell early in 2017.
(top right) The official portrait of Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M. © 2015
(left) Photo by Servizio Fotografico, L’Osservatore Romano. All rights reserved. Any photos on this site cannot be used without permission.