by James Forester
Communications Director at Friar Servants of Mary
Fr. Anthony M. O’Connell, O.S.M., a solemn professed friar and priest of the Order of Friar of Mary, USA Province (Servites)-United States of America Province, died Sunday, December 7, 2014, at Northwestern Medical Center, Chicago, IL. He was seventy-two years of age, a friar for fifty-four years and priest for forty-seven years.
He was born December 31, 1941, in County Cork, Ireland, the son of the late Anthony and Joan (O’Keefe) O’Connell and baptized at St. Finbarr’s , County Cork, Ireland. Fr. O’Connell entered the Servite Order at Our Lady of Benburb Priory , Benburb, Ireland on September 11, 1959. He professed his solemn vows in 1964, and was ordained a priest on July 2, 1967.
“Let me simply say, Tony was a kind, courageous, compassionate friendly, and faith-filled Irishman” said Fr. Michael Guimon, OSM, in his funeral homily. “The twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face assured one that you were very welcomed and ‘all would be well and all would be well.’ Filled with enthusiasm and energy Anthony was proud of his Irish roots, his Irish heritage with its literature, music, songs, poems, art, story tellers, leprechauns, fairies and the men and women who created this Celtic Culture. “In the days and nights since his decision to enter into hospice and his death, the great unfinished conversation has gone on as we shared our fond memories and stories about Father Tony and how he touched us, fed us, satisfied our thirst, clothed us, welcomed us, visited us, and cared for us in so many ways: by his gracious words of wisdom, healing, encouragement and affirmation; by his listening ear; by his welcoming and radiant smile; by his presence in joyful times and in times of suffering; by his conviction IN MEMORIAM that everyone needs respect… by his compassionate outreach to those seeking psychological help and had little money to pay; by his steadfastness and loyalty, especially to his Servite religious community; by his dedication to his call as priest and psychotherapist; by his ability to accept what he found and not turn away; by his service and his unwavering faith in God.”
Fr. Tony’s colleague, Dr. Linda Strozdas, spoke of his life after his leukemia diagnosis: “For the next 14 months he continued to transform his life and ours with his humor, quotes from literature, poetry, film, novels, Shakespeare, and his presence. He managed his professional role as colleague, consultant, supervisor and teacher. Those memories that he crafted for us were not the end of the story. He was looking for and finding his way to continue to be a part of the powerful play of life… always wondering what verse he might contribute, and always exploring the nuance, the shadow and the luminescence of every interpersonal exchange in this, the unfolding of his final act this side of heaven.”
Fr. O’Connell was an instructor at St. Philip High School , Chicago, Illinois; Servite novice master at Cafaggio Priory, Warren, Michigan; Servite master of novices, Dublin, Ireland; vicar provincial of the Servite Irish Vicariate; prior provincial of the USA Province; psychology instructor and clinical therapist, St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois. He also maintained a private practice as a psychologist and therapist.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Wednesday, December 10, 2014, at Assumption Parish , Chicago. Interment was in the Servite plot at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
Reprinted with permission of the Order of Friar of Mary, USA Province