Homily of the Rev. Terrence O'Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor

St. Paul Cathedral | Sept. 7, 2006

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Homily of the Rev. Terrence O'Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor:

Steve Mellon, Post-GazetteMayor Bob O'Connor's widow, Judy, and son, The Rev. Terrence O'Connor, a Catholic priest, who preached the homily at the funeral Mass at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland
An audio clip of the homily by the Rev. Terrence O'Connor. (10 mb)

I would like to begin by thanking Bishop Bradley for his extensive introduction which served to acknowledge the various people gathered here today. I echo those same sentiments.

I offer a special note of thanks to Archbishop Wuerl for celebrating my father's funeral Mass today.

I know that you and my dad formed a beautiful friendship over the years and your presence here today is of great consolation to my family and to the people of Pittsburgh.

This is a difficult time for my family, our friends, the city of Pittsburgh, and for all of Western Pennsylvania and even beyond.

As my family and I have greeted mourners these last couple of days, I have come to see the gigantic impact that my dad has had on the residents of the city of Pittsburgh and its outlying areas.

My father's passing has been felt by so many people in so many places. It is hard to say goodbye to someone who has truly lived his life for others. On this day, we have heavy hearts, hearts that must say farewell to a truly great man.

So this is a day marked with much sadness, but it is also a day filled with a tremendous amount of hope.

Hope in God's loving and mysterious plan for my dad and for us all.

Hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

As we have just heard in the gospel, on that Easter morning, the women go down to the tomb to anoint the body of the Lord Jesus.

What do they find?

The tomb was empty, the tomb was empty, alleluia, alleluia!

Alleluia is Hebrew for "praise to the Lord."

Praise to the Lord that Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and has opened for us the gates of heaven.

The long-awaited-for Messiah has come and through his cross and resurrection has won for us eternal life.

Everything that comes forth from the mouth of Jesus is pure truth, pure fact. He says to us, if you put your faith and trust in me than you will have a share in my resurrection. You will have a place reserved for you in heaven.

Did my dad put his faith and trust in Jesus?

I believe that he did.

If he were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict him? I think so.

What are some of the qualities that my father possessed that demonstrate his faith in the Lord? How do we know that he was a disciple of Jesus?

First and foremost was his Catholic faith. He was a practicing Catholic. Jesus was my dad's best friend and he had such a strong love for the Catholic Church.

He always went to Mass on Sunday.

During the blizzard in the early '90s, the obligation to attend Mass was lifted, but Mass would go on if people showed up.

My dad and I and one of my friends wondered if there would still be a way to get to Mass. As we sat around deliberating, my dad, who was an excellent driver, especially in the snow, said "Let's go, no problem, we'll get there." After slipping and sliding and fishtailing a bit, we made it for the Saturday evening Mass. There were about five or so other people in attendance and I guarantee you, they walked.

I credit my dad with handing the faith on to me.

I was not baptized until I was 19 years old. He said to me one day "Why don't you think of becoming Catholic?"

A little while later, I was baptized.

As I visited my dad in the hospital these last couple of months, I was so inspired by his desire to receive Holy Communion.

My dad had that belief.

No matter how sick or tired he was, when I asked him if he would like to receive Communion, his eyes would open wide and he would always say "yes."

Lastly, the thing that I will cherish the most about my dad's faith is how proud he was to have a son as a priest. It meant the world to him.

A special thanks to all my brother priests here today.

What other qualities of my dad point to his love for Jesus?

My father was so dedicated to his family.

My mom and him recently celebrated 40 years together. He was a great husband. Speaking of my mom, what a terrific lady.

My mom was such a large influence in my father's life and his success.

She didn't visit my dad at the hospital these last two months; she lived with him at the hospital these last two months.

I would now like to invite my mom, Judy, to please stand up so that we can rightly acknowledge her.

My dad was not only a great husband, but also a terrific father and grandfather.

He was always there for us and so proud of all of us.

I would ask that my sister Heidy and my brother Corey please stand so that we can acknowledge them as well.

My father was a man of hope.

As mayor, he truly believed that Pittsburgh had a bright future.

He believed that with the Lord's help and with the efforts of the people, Pittsburgh had an opportunity to flourish.

As mayor, he was able to turn some of his dreams into reality.

Furthermore, my father was a man of compassion.

He lived by the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I remember asking my dad why he got into politics. He said, "I wanted to help people."

It wasn't too complicated, he wanted to reach out to others and make this world a better place. My father had such a deep love for the people of Pittsburgh and the people of Pittsburgh loved him. He was able to get along with anybody and everybody. As I stood greeting people these last few days, I heard story after story of my dad's kindness.

And taking a page out of the life of Christ, my father had a special love for the people most in need -- the poor, the blind, the lame, the sick, the orphan, the widow and children.

Speaking of children, if your baby was held and kissed by Mayor Bob O'Connor, I can guarantee you one thing, that was not for a vote. He simply loved kids for the sake of loving them.

As you may know, my dad helped to start the Caring Place, which is a facility used to help children who have lost a loved one. This was one of his most fulfilling projects.

I recently came across a mom who had lost her teenage son. She said to me, "the next time that you visit your dad in the hospital, please tell him thank you for the Caring Place because I am planning to send a couple of my children there."

As I relayed the message to my dad, he was sitting up in a chair with his eyes closed. He was so tired that he could not keep his eyes open. When I finished the story, his eyes remained closed.

Then, out of the corner of his eye, a tear came streaming down his face.

Who could forget my dad's enthusiasm and energy?

He had such a love for life.

The word enthusiasm comes from a Greek word, "entheous" which means "to be possessed by God."

His enthusiasm was a result of his relationship with God. He knew that God loved him and that his kindness to others was pleasing to God.

My dad was a man of integrity. As I stood in line greeting well-wishers, many said to me, "Your dad was a man of his word." He was honest. He was truthful.

In addition, my father was a man of courage. To lead Pittsburgh the way he did took a great deal of courage. Who could forget my dad walking through those tough neighborhoods in order to "redd" things up. I remember watching my dad walk through those streets, wearing a bulletproof vest and thinking to myself, "I hope I'm that courageous one day." We can all remember the alleged sniper Downtown. What was on the front page of the newspaper? My dad walking out in the open, risking his life, so that he could get to the office building in order to check on my mom.

Lastly, I think my dad's faith in Jesus was shown through his humility. Jesus made the ultimate act of humility, God becoming man.

The word humility comes from a Latin word meaning earth.

My father was down to earth. He was one of us, a common Pittsburgher. By the way, I think Pittsburgh was in my dad's DNA. He was a Pittsburgher through and through. In any case, he came from humble beginnings and he never forgot where he came from. Although he possessed many abilities, he always saw himself as just a regular guy, as God's humble servant.

I remember in his campaign speech, he used to say, "when I look out at you, the people of Pittsburgh, it is as if I am looking in a mirror at myself." He was one of us, and this helped him to be a true man of the people.

When we add up all of these attributes, we can certainly say that my dad was a faithful disciple of Jesus. He would be the first to tell you, as he often did in his speeches, that what ultimately made him who he was and able to do the things that he did, was his relationship with our Lord and his Catholic faith. The Catholic Church of Pittsburgh has lost a true son as has the City of Pittsburgh.

In looking at my father's life, I think we could all learn lessons from him.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a Mass for my dad at his home parish of St. Rosalia in Greenfield. Before going to the Mass, I asked my dad if there was anything that he wanted me to tell the people. In a very quiet voice, he said "thank them, thank them." My dad was always so thankful. Who could forget the "Thank you Pittsburgh" signs he held in traffic after winning the election?

On behalf of my dad and the rest of my family, I would like to thank all of you who have come here today.

A special thanks to the people of Pittsburgh for all of your love and support that you have shown to my father and the rest of my family during these last couple of months.

There are bigger and wealthier cities than Pittsburgh, but I could not imagine a city with more heart than the City of Pittsburgh.

Today is a celebration of my father's wonderful life.

Let us not ask ourselves today, "What could have been?"

Let us ask ourselves today, "What is?"

What is, is that my dad lived an extraordinary life with Jesus Christ at the center of that life.

What is, is that my dad put his faith and trust in Jesus and has been promised a share in his resurrection.

What is, is that God is with us today, tomorrow and forever.


May the roads rise up to meet you.

May the winds be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

the rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

I love you dad. Thanks for everything.


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