Sacred Moment - Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., is ordained to the episcopacy by Bishop John M. Smith in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, July 30. Bishop Smith is joined by co-ordaining bishops Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, left, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington. Craig Pittelli photo
Sacred Moment - Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., is ordained to the episcopacy by Bishop John M. Smith in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, July 30. Bishop Smith is joined by co-ordaining bishops Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, left, and Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington. Craig Pittelli photo

Upon learning in May that Pope Benedict XVI had selected him to become the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, then-Father David M. O'Connell revealed that it only took him "about two seconds" to decide upon his episcopal motto.

And the words that the Vincentian priest chose - "ministrare non ministrari," or "to serve and not to be served" - echoed loud and clear at the Mass in which now-Bishop O'Connell was ordained to the episcopacy by Bishop John M. Smith in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, July 30.

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Noting the “tremendous and awesome responsibility” that comes with the power of being a bishop, Bishop O’Connell, who will now serve alongside Bishop Smith as coadjutor bishop of Trenton, spoke of how he intends to use the authority given to him as a servant of the people of the diocese.

“A bishop serves his people by teaching truth, the truth that comes through the Gospel, the truth that comes through the Church and all its teachings, the truth that lives among us a community of faith, for ‘where two or three are gathered in my name,’ Jesus promised us, ‘there I am in the midst of them,’” Bishop O'Connell said in his address to the overflowing crowd that packed St. Mary Cathedral, and the many more watching on television and via live webcast. 

"This is how a bishop serves,” he continued. “Not by being served through compromise or taking the easy way out. Not by being served saying only what people want to hear or what makes them comfortable, striving to be popular."

A bishop also must serve by sanctifying his people through leading them into a personal relationship with Christ, he said. 

“The bishop is called, it is said, to be a servant of the empty tomb, not of the status quo,” Bishop O’Connell said. “He leads people to holiness by bearing witness to what the empty tomb means, and that is joy (and) hope.” 

By relying on the grace of God for guidance, he added, a bishop must lead by word and example in governing and shepherding their flock.

"To teach, to govern, to sanctify - this is what a bishop does for God's people," Bishop O'Connell said. "This is what a bishop does with God's people." (click here to read the complete text of Bishop O'Connell's address)

Bishop O'Connell's final words capped an emotional two-and-a-half hour liturgy that was concelebrated by four cardinals – including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia – and more than 40 bishops and archbishops from around the country, all of whom laid hands upon Bishop O’Connell during the ordination rite. Joining Bishop Smith as co-ordaining bishops were Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, metropolitan of the Province of New Jersey, and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C.

The richly symbolic Mass also included a number of personal touches that reflected the life and ministry of Bishop O’Connell. He selected the two readings – one of which was proclaimed in Spanish by his brother, Daniel, and the other by longtime colleague Frank Persico, Bishop O’Connell’s chief of staff at The Catholic University of America in Washington – and the same Gospel passage that was read at his ordination to the priesthood on May 29, 1982.

That Gospel passage – taken from the Gospel of Mark and proclaimed in song by transitional deacon Rev. Mr. Kevin J. Kimtis, a graduate of The Catholic University of America – contains the words of Jesus that Bishop O’Connell chose for his episcopal motto: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In his homily during the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Smith said that Bishop O’Connell is now called to model Christ’s role as a servant and to continue the work of the apostles in tending to his flock.

“The title of bishop is one of service, not just honor,” Bishop Smith said.

“As one chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.”

Following the laying on of hands by the bishops in attendance, a Book of the Gospel was held over the head of Bishop O’Connell by Rev. Mr. Kimtis and Deacon Joseph Donadieu. Bishop O’Connell’s head was then anointed with the sacred chrism by Bishop Smith and he was presented with the Book of the Gospel, along with the episcopal ring, miter and crosier. At the conclusion of the liturgy, Bishop O’Connell was given a thunderous round of applause from the congregation.

Among those in attendance were his mother, June O’Connell, of Langhorne, Pa., and several members of his extended family. Also filling the pews were staff members of The Catholic University of America, where Bishop O'Connell served as president for the last 12 years; fellow priests of the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Vincentians; and many of the friends that he has made in his 28 years of priestly ministry. Representatives of parishes and schools of the diocese also attended the Mass, and several parishes were represented within the outstanding choir that provided the music for the liturgy.

Ryan Notarangelo and Timothy Schmalz, both students of The Catholic University who have come to know Bishop O’Connell through their participation in campus ministry, were among those lucky enough to obtain tickets for the Mass. Before the Mass, both commented on his approachable nature and dynamic preaching style.

“He has a way of getting to listeners when he preaches a homily,” said Schmalz, a resident of Howell who attends St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, when not at college. “It feels like you know him.”

Following the Mass, more than 800 guests traveled to the Westin Hotel, Princeton, for a reception in Bishop O'Connell's honor. Although he did not wish to single anyone out in his remarks during the Mass, the newly-ordained coadjutor offered a special message of thanks at the end of the evening to Bishop Smith for the warm welcome he has received since his arrival in the Diocese of Trenton. 

Bishop O'Connell will now serve as coadjutor bishop of the diocese until the resignation of Bishop Smith - which according to the requirements of canon law the bishop had to submit upon his 75th birthday June 23 - is accepted by Pope Benedict at a date yet to be determined. Upon Bishop Smith’s retirement, Bishop O’Connell will automatically become the 10th bishop of the diocese.

Monitor Features Editor Lois Rogers contributed to this story.

For more information on Bishop O’Connell’s life and background, view this sample version of The Monitor’s special issue welcoming the new coadjutor bishop – CLICK HERE