Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., stands in front of the Mother of the Church Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica during his ad limina visit to Rome. Staff photo
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., stands in front of the Mother of the Church Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica during his ad limina visit to Rome. Staff photo

Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., is in Rome starting Nov. 23 for the ad limina visit. Following are his reflections from his first few days:


Despite a misty rain that had begun to fall on Saturday afternoon, our flight from Newark to Rome left on time.  It was, thank God, a very pleasant and uneventful flight with many Region III bishops on board: Cardinal Tobin and auxiliary Bishop Cruz of Newark, Bishop Serratelli of Paterson, Bishop Sullivan of Camden, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia and yours truly of Trenton.  We were accompanied by several of our vicars general and priest assistants for the trip.

Arriving a bit early, we collected our baggage and boarded buses for our destinations, arranged by the Pontifical North American College (PNAC).  Most bishops and their entourage stayed at PNAC while Bishop Serratelli and I traveled with our priests to Domus Sanctae Marthae (DSM).

Photo Gallery: Bishop's 2019 ad limina visit to Rome

After checking in at the front desk and unpacking in our rooms, Msgr. Gervasio, Fr. Carlo and I headed over to the back entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica and proceeded to tour this magnificent Church.  This was Fr. Carlo’s first trip to Rome, so it was a special joy watching his excitement at being there.

During a recent pastoral visit to Holy Assumption Church of St. Mary Mother of the Church Parish in Bordentown, I promised the parishioners that I would pray for them at the “Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church)” altar in St. Peter’s, which I did shortly after entering the Basilica.  We visited the Blessed Sacrament Chapel then to offer these days to the Lord in prayer for our Diocese and the good of our people.  Stopping next to pray at the tombs of St. Peter, Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II, we made our way to the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter to participate in Mass for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  Celebrated in Latin, the choir provided beautiful music to inspire and accompany of prayer.

After Mass, we returned to DSM for “pranzo (lunch)” – the meals here are quite good – and for a little “riposo (rest).”

At 6:30 p.m., the participants on the Region III “ad limina” visit assembled in the main auditorium for a briefing on the events of the week ahead.  Fr. David Schunk of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and a staff member at PNAC presented instructions and information related to the visit, and Msgr. Thomas Fucinaro of the Diocese of Lincoln and a staff member at the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship who was appointed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as liaison for all the regions coming to Rome provided more specific details to the bishops.

Following the meeting, we met up with our priest studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Daniel Peirano, to have supper at Ristochicco Ristorante.  It was a lovely evening and a delicious meal!  Pasta never tastes better than in Rome!

We returned to DSM, made a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in chapel and headed to our rooms, ready for bed!



After a good night’s rest, we boarded a 6:40 a.m. bus to the Basilica of St. Mary Major for 7:30 a.m. Mass.  What a magnificent church!  I stopped to visit the tomb of a dear friend buried there and then joined the group in the sacristy for vesting. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh was the celebrant and homilist, invoking the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary on the work and activities of our week.

Msgr. Gervasio, Fr. Carlo and I went to Piazza Navona for breakfast and cappuccinos (although it was breakfast time, I admit to stopping for some gelato on the way back to DSM).

The schedule for the day included meetings at the Dicastery for Laity and Family Life, the Congregation for Causes of the Saints, and the three Pontifical Councils for Culture, Christian Unity and Inter-religious Dialogue.  By contrast with Sunday’s daylong drizzle, Monday was a beautiful sunny day in Rome. 

Trenton’s “three amigos” next traveled to the Motherhouse of the Religious Teachers Filippini, an order of religious sisters that has served in the Diocese of Trenton for over 100 years, to join newly elected Superior General Sr. Ascenza and her Filippini sisters for pranzo.  It was a wonderful visit and a superb lunch.  Everybody had a great time.  Msgr. Gervasio and Fr. Carlo headed to the Colosseum to get a glimpse of Ancient Rome.  I stayed back at DSM to catch up on some mail and writing.

In the evening, we met up to join my seminary classmate and good friend, Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, and his two accompanying priests for dinner at Da Fortunato Ristorante near the Pantheon.  It is a favorite place of mine in Rome since I first began coming to Rome in 1998.  Needless to say, we all had a fantastic evening!  After another long day, it was time to say “buona notte.”