“I am humbled by the support of my brother bishops and I hope and pray I can be of service to the Church and its educational mission.”
So said Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., upon learning that he was elected chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education Nov. 14.
Catholic bishops from throughout the United States are gathering in Baltimore for their fall plenary assembly from Nov. 13-16 during which they will have time for prayer, Mass and to discuss and vote on a number of issues pertaining to the Church in the United States. A high point of the assembly will be the bishops electing a new secretary and chairmen for six standing committees, of which the Committee on Catholic Education is one.
According to the USCCB website, the Committee on Catholic Education “provides guidance for the educational mission of the Church in the United States in all its institutional settings. …The scope of the committee’s work includes Catholic elementary and secondary schools, Catholic colleges and universities, and college campus ministry. The committee advocates for federal public policies in education that are consistent with Catholic values and that uphold parental rights and responsibilities regarding education.”
Bishop O’Connell brings a strong background and many years of serving in the ministry of Catholic education at various levels to his new USCCB position.
Following his May 29, 1982, ordination as a priest of the Congregation of the Mission, then-Father O’Connell’s first assignment was as faculty member and director of student activities and in Archbishop Wood High School, Warminster, Pa., where he served from 1982 to 1985.
While working toward his canon law degrees, Father 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, then academic dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and assistant to legal counsel. In 1994, he also spent one year simultaneously serving as interim academic vice president of Niagara University, Lewistown, N.Y.
In the spring of 1998, Father O'Connell was named the 14th president of The Catholic University of America in Washington., D.C., a position he held for 12 years before being named Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton by Pope Benedict XVI in June, 2010.
He was ordained to the episcopacy in July, 2010 and assumed the role of Ordinary later that year.
Bishop O’Connell has directed much attention to promoting and strengthening Catholic education in the Diocese of Trenton. During his tenure, the Bishop has helped to raise money with special collections for Catholic schools and students; worked to launch the Catholic Schools Have It All marketing campaign and instituted the annual Catholic Schools Mass which brings together representatives of all schools of the Diocese to celebrate with their Bishop. He also instituted the first diocesan chapter of Catholic Athletes for Christ, an organization to promote spirituality among athletes competing in the Catholic high schools of the Diocese.