Thursday, April 30, 2015

Remembering Bishop Connolly

Bishop Thomas Connolly (1922-2015)
Today we bid Goodbye or So Long to Bishop Thomas Connolly in a Funeral Mass held in our church of St Francis of Assisi parish, in Bend. Archbishop Alexander Sample will be presiding and Bishop William Skylstad will be preaching. Yesterday Bishop Cary led a Vigil Service in the same church. Another Mass will be held tomorrow at the Cathedral in Baker City followed by the burial at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Thomas Joseph Connolly was born on July 18, 1922, in Tonopah, Nevada.  He attended St. Joseph Minor Seminary in Mt. View, California and completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park.  After ordination on April 8, 1947, Fr. Connolly served briefly as an associate pastor and a high school teacher before his appointment in 1949 as secretary to Bishop Gorman.  Studies in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and at the Lateran University in Rome prepared him for a doctorate degree in 1952.  For the next 20 years he served as pastor at the Cathedral in Reno and of churches in Elko and Carson City.  Appointed to succeed Bishop Leipzig, he was ordained the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Baker on June 20, 1971.
Bishop Connolly's greatest challenge would be the earth-shaking changes in the Church brought on by the Second Vatican Council.  The establishment of a Priests' Council, an annual Presbyteral Assembly, a Sisters' Council and a Diocesan Pastoral Council with lay participation revealed the Bishop's accord with the Council's new view of the Church.
From 1981 to 1993, church construction resumed, initiated by an extensive refurbishing of the Cathedral to bring it into accord with the liturgical directives of Vatican Council II.  Rededication ceremonies took place on April 28, 1981.  Seven new churches and halls were built within the Diocese.  Bishop Connolly left office in 1999, holding that the best mode of operation for the success of Christ's ministry is love.  He had succeeded in unifying the Diocese during a time of dire challenge and change.  It is estimated that he traveled more than a million miles by car, visiting parishes and missions.

A mural honoring Bishop Connolly at Baker City in 1996
During his tenure, he sought to solve problems through the introduction of innovative programs. Under his guidance, a major renovation of the Cathedral was accomplished, and the Chancery offices were moved to Bend on October 7, 1987.  Bishop Connolly served 29 years as the Bishop of Baker. He spent the last few years at a nursing home in Beaverton, and died last Friday, aged 93. May he rest in peace.

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