Fr. O’Connell to become Trenton coadjutor

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WASHINGTON - The outgoing president of The Catholic University of America, Vincentian Father David O'Connell, has been named coadjutor bishop of Trenton, N.J., by Pope Benedict XVI.

The appointment was announced June 4 in Washington by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate O'Connell, 55, is a native of Philadelphia who attended St. Joseph Preparatory High School in Princeton, N.J., and colleges in New York and Pennsylvania before his ordination for the Vincentians in 1982.

As coadjutor he will automatically succeed Trenton Bishop John M. Smith upon his retirement. On June 23, Bishop Smith will turn 75, the mandatory age at which bishops must submit their retirement.

Bishop-designate O'Connell has been president of Catholic University since 1998. In October he announced his intent to step down at the end of the school year, which ended in May.

His episcopal ordination is scheduled for July 30 at St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton. He has asked Bishop Smith to be his consecrator, to be assisted by Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., and Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Catholic University chancellor.

"Trenton has been a second home to me," Bishop-designate O'Connell said at a June 4 news conference in Trenton after the announcement of his appointment.

"I grew up only a few miles from here in Langhorne, Pa., with beautiful, loving parents and family. I can't count how many times I passed that bridge with the words written 'Trenton Makes, the World Takes.' I went to high school in Princeton, which is part of the Trenton Diocese. Bishop (George) Ahr frequently attended ceremonies there." The Vincentians have also served in the diocese since 1913.

Born April 21, 1955, Bishop-designate O'Connell received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Niagara University in New York in 1978 and master's degrees in divinity and moral theology from Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pa., in 1981 and 1983, respectively.

He was ordained a Vincentian priest in 1982, in Northampton.

Before his 12-year presidency at Catholic University, Bishop-designate O'Connell had earned a licentiate and a doctorate in canon law in 1987 and 1990, respectively, at the university.

At the time of his appointment to Catholic University, he was acting vice president and dean at Niagara University, as well as associate dean at St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y.

Bishop-designate O'Connell is a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, and an adviser to committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has also served as an ecclesiastical judge and canonical adviser in numerous dioceses.

He said June 4 that he had chosen as his episcopal motto a phrase uttered by Jesus and found in chapter 10, verse 45 of the Gospel of Mark: "ministrare non ministrari," or "to serve and not to be served." Anyone from Catholic University, he added, "will tell you that these words are not simply a quotation for me. They are an obsession."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010