Designed by Donna Hobson and set in the traditional background of the green episcopal galero with 12 tassels and processional cross, this coat of arms adopts the shield of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with its red and white cross beams and crescent moon on a field of blue in the upper left quadrant. In the lower right quadrant appears the crest of the O'Connell family with its buck and three shamrocks on a field of green and white. In the upper right quadrant appears the image of Jesus Christ with open arms standing atop the world, adopted from the seal of The Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul. In the lower left quadrant appears an open book as background to a lighted lamp.
The shield itself represents Bishop O'Connell's long association as president with The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the national university of the Catholic Church in our country, sponsored by the bishops of the United States. It was during his tenure there --- the second longest in the university's history --- that Bishop O'Connell received his episcopal appointment.
The cross symbolizes the university's Catholic identity, the hallmark of Bishop O'Connell's presidency, with red stripes depicting the blood of Christ and white stripes, Christ's innocence. The crescent moon in the upper left quadrant symbolizes Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the United States and patroness of Catholic University. The image of Jesus Christ with open arms standing atop the world is derived from the seal of the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul, the Society of Apostolic Life to which Bishop O'Connell belongs. Usually presented along with that seal, although not depicted here, is the motto of the Congregation of the Mission, "Evangelizare pauperibus misit me Dominus," taken from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 61 verse 1, the apostolic work of the Congregation of the Mission and the text used for Bishop O'Connell's Mass of Episcopal Ordination.
In the lower right quadrant appears the heraldic emblem of Bishop O'Connells's ancestral Irish family, a buck on a field of green and white surrounded by three shamrocks. The color green symbolizes hope and loyalty and the color white, sincerity and peace. The three shamrocks represent the Blessed Trinity surrounding a buck representing peace and harmony, literally "one who will not fight unless provoked."
In the lower left quadrant is an open book symbolizing education and learning, the apostolic work to which Bishop O'Connell devoted his entire priestly ministry, with a burning lamp representing the lamp of learning and the light of faith.
Ministrare non Ministrari ("To serve and not to be served')
The phrase Ministrare non Ministrare is the Latin text of the phrase contained in the Gospel of St. Mark, chapter 10 verse 45, drawn from the sentence "The Son of Man has come to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for the many."
This Gospel passage was used in Bishop O'Connell's Mass of Ordination as a priest and also in his Mass of Ordination as a bishop. It embodies the notion of "leader as servant," a concept modeled by Jesus Christ throughout his public ministry in the Gospels. Not only did he urge his apostles to be servants first but he witnessed such service in his actions, washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, saying "As I have done, so you also must do (John 13: 15)."
The disposition to serve others, especially the poor, was characteristic of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Mission. While he accomplished many great things throughout his life, he always looked for more opportunities to serve. "You are the servant of the poor," he always reminded his priests, brothers and sisters. With characteristic humility, with charity as his singular motive, it was his conviction as a priest and servant of God's people that "however great the work that God may achieve by an individual, he must not indulge in self-satisfaction. He ought rather to be all the more humbled, seeing himself merely as a tool of which God has made use." Why? Because "the Son of Man has come to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for the many."