Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 21, 2006
O'Connell remembered as a prayerful priest
Fr. Robert O'Connell
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Holy Cross Father Robert Pelletier O'Connell, the former pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Edmonton, died in Welland, Ont. July 8. He was 81.
"He was a hard worker and he was a very disciplined man," said Father Wilfrid Murchland, a Holy Cross priest serving in Sherwood Park. "I think you can call him a man of prayer, a holy man. He was very dedicated to his ministry and to prayer."
He also loved walking around the neighbourhood and playing golf.
A former teacher, O'Connell came to the Edmonton Archdiocese in 1984 and served as pastor in Jasper, Leduc and Edmonton for the next 18 years until his retirement.
Born in Trenton, Ont., Oct. 9, 1924, O'Connell made contact with the Holy Cross missionaries in India while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force in the early 1940s. He joined the congregation in 1946 and made his final profession in 1950.
Following theological studies in Rome, he was ordained a priest Dec. 20, 1953.
O'Connell served at St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal before he began his teaching career at Notre Dame College in 1954.
For the next 15 years he taught religion, science, Latin, physical education and in later years he became vice-principal at St. Joseph's. "He was quite strict as a teacher," recalled Murchland. "He had a sense of humour but as a teacher his humour didn't always come out."
O'Connell left teaching in 1968 to serve the Holy Cross Fathers as provincial superior. In 1976 he studied at Louvain, Belgium and ministered for a number of years in Chiapas, Mexico.
He then spent the next 22 years engaged in pastoral work in Canada. After a few years at St. Michael's Parish in Waterloo, Ont., O'Connell came to the Edmonton Archdiocese.
After completing his ministry at St. John the Evangelist Parish in 2002, he returned to Ontario to retire at the congregation's residence in Welland.
Janet Edmondson, former parish secretary at St. John the Evangelist, described O'Connell as "a quiet and gentle man."
"You had to get to know him but he was very wise and helpful when you came to him," she said. "I wrote to him for a little bit after he left and he always signed his letters 'Let's say a prayer for each other' and I thought that was very nice."