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Cardinal William Henry O'Connell

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Cardinal William Henry O'Connell

  • Birth 8 Dec 1859 Lowell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Death 22 Apr 1944 Brighton, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Burial Brighton, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Memorial ID 10711883

Roman Catholic Cardinal. A native of Lowell, William Henry O'Connell was the youngest of eleven children of an Irish textile mill laborer. Entering Saint Charles Seminary College in Maryland, he left his studies for the priesthood and moved to Boston College, graduating with first honors in philosophy and physics in 1881. Rejoining the ecclesiastical world, he was sent to the North American College in Rome, undergoing studies at the Pontifical Urban Athenaeum De Propaganda Fide but due to illness had to leave without completing his doctorate. Ordained priest there in June 1884, after rendering service in the two parishes within the archdiocese of Boston, he was back in Rome, this time as rector of the North American College between 1895 and 1901, when on May 14, was appointed the third bishop of the diocese of Portland, Maine, receiving his episcopal consecration at the Patriarchal Lateran Basilica five days later. Appointed coadjutor with right of succession of the archdiocese of Boston on February 6, 1906, with the titular archbishopric see of Constantina, he succeeded to the metropolitan see on August 30 of the following year upon the death of Archbishop John Joseph Williams. Created cardinal priest by Pope Pius X in the consistory of November 27, 1911, receiving the title of San Clemente three days later, O'Connell soon became a well known figure, with his 36-year-long tenure in Boston marked by both glory and scandal. Awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University in 1937, becoming thus the first native Catholic prelate to receive such a recognition, the Cardinal held great power in the social and political fields, such that he was referred to as "Number One", leading to the expansion of the Catholic Church in Boston. Pneumonia brought the end to the once large, gaudy and militant figure. Conscious until the end, he answered the prayers for the dying and gave a final blessing to the faithful members of his household. Buried in the mausoleum chapel of the Immaculate Conception, a little building on a hill which he had constructed on the grounds of the St. John's Seminary to remind young seminarians to pray for an old cardinal's soul, in 2007 with the sale of the property to his alma mater, Boston College, the chapel became the latter's property. Planning to relocate his remains to St. Sebastian's School in Needham, which Cardinal O'Connell helped found in 1941, the archdiocese faced various difficulties with members of his family, who opposed to this transfer. With the chapel razed to the ground in July 2011, the cardinal's intact bronze, over one-ton coffin was re-interred in a landscaped courtyard of the seminary itself.

Bio by: Eman Bonnici


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  • Created by: daytonflyers
  • Added: 31 Mar 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10711883
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Cardinal William Henry O'Connell (8 Dec 1859–22 Apr 1944), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10711883, citing Cardinal O'Connell Gravesite, Brighton, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by daytonflyers (contributor 46779125) .