It is with great sadness that we inform you of the sudden and tragic passing of Bishop David O’Connell. He was a beloved bishop, an extraordinary pastor, and a close friend of our network. Bishop Dave (as he was known) was a true shepherd to his flock -- embedded in the lives of his parishioners and teaching thousands of One LA-IAF leaders to love their neighbor and fight against injustice.
Bishop Dave had a long career as a leader in Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations through his decades of service in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In the 1980s and 1990s, while he was an active leader in the South Central Organizing Committee (SCOC), his ministry and organizing work addressed gun violence, systemic disinvestment in what was then known as South Central LA, poverty, and the plight of undocumented immigrants. The organizing work of Bishop Dave and SCOC led to the passage of California’s assault weapons ban in 1989, helped thousands of immigrants become citizens after Reagan Administration immigration reform in 1986, and shut down liquor stores in the wake of unrest following the beating of Rodney King.
He continued his efforts with IAF as the pastor of St. Michael’s parish and was one of the founding leaders of One LA-IAF when SCOC and three other local organizations merged into a county-wide organizing effort in 2004. As a leader with One LA-IAF, Bishop Dave led efforts to secure health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, expand community-based policing, assist homeowners facing foreclosure during the Great Recession, and help former prisoners obtain employment and rebuild their lives.
We will remember him for his attention to the development of parish leaders and for the love that he infused in everything that he did. Most recently, Bishop Dave played an instrumental role in the IAF’s 'Recognizing the Stranger' training initiative, sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. 'Recognizing the Stranger' has prepared over 4,000 parish leaders across the Southwest to tap into the skills of broad-based organizing to rebuild their parishes through a culture of encounter and active engagement with people from diverse backgrounds. These themes echoed throughout his life as a pastor who was known for his presence and ministry on-the-ground, among the people. We miss him dearly and will continue to be inspired and transformed by his life and legacy.
[Photo Credits: Rafael Paz Parra (top); (middle) Clarence Williams, Getty Images, (bottom) One LA-IAF]
Cork Bishop Murdered in Los Angeles Was 'A Joyful Man', Irish Examiner