When David O’Connell was named Auxiliary Bishop in 2015 for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a press conference was held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. It was my first year working at the cathedral, and we were already planning a major episcopal ordination for not one but three new auxiliary bishops: Joseph Brennan, Robert Barron, and David O’Connell. Bishop O’Connell was noticeably nervous. The setting didn’t help: it was the middle of the workday and so the press conference took place in front of only a few people apart from those who worked at the cathedral. After some opening remarks, Archbishop José Gómez invited O’Connell to offer some of his thoughts. He said, “I read somewhere recently that Pope Francis, speaking to some newly named bishops, told them, 'don’t take this as an honor or even as a title or even as a reward for good work.' This call to be bishop is an invitation to follow Jesus more closely and to serve his people with more fervor, so I am very humbled and touched very deeply by the fact that somewhere Pope Francis saw my profile and has named me to be an auxiliary here in Los Angeles.” I recall being touched by his humility and nervousness. This was the day I met Bishop O’Connell for the first time. The next nearly eight years proved to be a testament to the invitation he described. He was a bishop who never stopped being a priest; he was a priest who understood human frailty; he was a compassionate human being.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles began the Lenten season grieving Bishop David O’Connell’s loss. He was murdered on February 18 in his Hacienda Heights home. I learned of his death through a text message. That afternoon we thought he had died of natural causes. Later that night I received another text with the news that he had been shot to death. It came as a shock, and it also brought back painful memories.
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