Cardinal John O'Connor
- Category : 1920-births
- Type : PM
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Maya 4
American ecclesiastic, a Cardinal, the oldest active bishop in the U.S. and one of the country's most influential Roman Catholics.
O'Connor is one of five kids born to Irish immigrants; his dad was of Irish ancestry and his mom, German. His dad was a goldleafer who restored antique furniture and added gilding in churches. When John's mom was blinded by glaucoma, the family's comfortable living was drained by medical expenses. After a year, his mom's sight returned spontaneously and it was regarded as a miracle in response to her prayers to St. Rita.
Attending a number of colleges and universities in Philadelphia, Delaware and Washington, O’Connor earned advanced degrees in superior ethics, clinical psychology and political science. He owes his vocation, he says, to the Christian Brothers who taught him in his Catholic High School. His teachers remember him as a shy, frail boy, versatile and highly intelligent. He was ordained to the priesthood on 12/15/1945, Philadelphia, PA.
O'Connor grew into a robust six-footer of ramrod stature and a commanding bearing. A polished speaker, he had a spontaneous wit, a warm, gentle manner, an arm-around-the-shoulders geniality and a disarming democracy.
After teaching and parish work in Philadelphia, he entered service as a chaplain with the United States Navy and Marine Corps in 1952, serving for 27 years. He had assignments in Korea and in Vietnam, where he received a Gold Star for service in 1966. He retired from the military on 6/01/1979, at which time he was ordained a bishop for the armed forces of the United States by Pope John Paul II.
In 1983 he became Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and on 3/19/1984, he was made Bishop of New York. He was created a Cardinal in 5/25/1985, receiving the red biretta and title of Ss. Giovanni e Paolo. He charmed New Yorkers with his self-depreciating wit and warmth while making headlines with his opposition to abortion and homosexuality along with chastising politicians. In his high-profile position in New York, O'Connor became one of the city's more prominent citizens -- co-authoring a book with ex-mayor Edward I. Koch and greeting the city's elite on the steps of the cathedral each St. Patrick's Day. He also authored "Defense of Life," 1981.
O'Connor's health began to fail and doctors removed a tumor from his brain on 9/05/1999. The tumor was diagnosed while the 79-year-old cardinal was hospitalized for tests at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on August 25th. After the surgery, O'Connor received radiation therapy for several weeks. His surgery and subsequent treatments took their toll on the cardinal, who walked slowly and leaned on a cane as he made his way to the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral. He anticipated retirement on his 80th birthday. On 3/07/2000, John Cardinal O’Connor was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
He died of brain cancer at 8:05 PM EDT on 5/03/2000, peacefully at his home behind Saint Patrick's Cathedral surrounded by family and friends. He was buried in the crypt of St. Patrick's metropolitan cathedral, New York.