No more meetings for Bishop Joe

After more than 30 years as auxiliary for Melbourne archdiocese, Bishop Joe O'Connell, who also worked on the Vatican commission for the revision of canon law, is retiring with a vow to keep serving - but never attend another meeting.

"I've said to the Archbishop I'll do anything I can to help but I will never go to another meeting!" muses Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Joseph O'Connell, according to a Kairos report.

"I've been a bishop since 1976, and Msgr Tomlinson pointed out to me at the last meeting of the College of Consultors, which was in December, that 'You've been coming to this meeting for more than half your life' - 38 years!"

Born and raised in Melbourne's northern suburbs, World War II had a considerable impact on the young Joe O'Connell, Kairos says.

"I think it gave us a capacity to endure," he reflects. There was a rationing of food and rationing of clothes, but Mum and Dad always had the perfect excuse for anything that wasn't there, or that we couldn't have: 'Don't you know there's a war on?!'

"Life, in a sense, was very simple and there was a great spirit of community and neighbourliness among people who looked after each other. A lot of that probably developed considerably out of the experiences of the fellows who had been at war", Bishop Joe told Kairos.

Of the approximately 35 students in his 1948 year 12 class at Parade College, more than ten became priests, he added.

Following a year spent as a junior teacher, Joe O'Connell joined the seminary in 1950. Upon his ordination, he spent a few months at St Peter and St Paul's parish in West Geelong before leaving to study in Rome for three years.

He arrived at the Vatican on the evening of 9 October 1958, the night that Pope Pius XII passed away.

Upon his return to Melbourne in 1961, Fr O'Connell was appointed as Assistant Priest at West Melbourne. His subsequent roles over the next half-century have included Assistant Priest at Yarraville, Secretary of the Archbishop's Marriage Tribunal, Episcopal Vicar for Religious, Vicar General and Parish Priest at St Monica's in Moonee Ponds, where he continues to reside.

He was appointed Bishop for the northern and western regions of Melbourne at the age of 44, making him the youngest Australian bishop at the time.

Looking back over the span of his career, Bishop Joe cites Vatican II and the changes to Canon Law that followed as the biggest change he has seen in the Church.

"I often think how I would have reacted to all that had I not had the Roman experience. I had ... two professors in Rome 'that were intent upon preparing us for the coming of the new Canon Law. I didn't know there was going to be a new Canon Law and I ended up very much involved in it!" he said.

"I was on the commission for the revision of Canon Law. I was the youngest bishop at that and I'm one of the few left alive. Of course, one who was involved in it and is still alive is the [current] Pope."

Keep watching (Kairos, 4/2/07))

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Emeritus Joseph O'Connell (Melbourne Archdiocese)
Bishop Joseph O'Connell (Catholic Hierarchy)

5 Feb 2007