Father Pat O’Connor joins St. Michael the Archangel Parish

Story by Marianne Salza

Saint Michael the Archangel Parish welcomed its second Father O’Connor in early June. Father Pat O’Connor has been assigned to St. Michael’s following his May 21st ordination into the Archdiocese of Boston by Cardinal Sean O’Malley. Following this milestone in Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Father Pat celebrated a mass at his home parish in Dedham.

“The word ‘gratitude’ was on my mind seeing family and friends,” said Father Pat, who is enjoying breathing in the salt air during his runs as he explores the town. “The Lord’s path is sometimes windy. When you reach a moment, you look back and see how He has been at work with different people who have helped you on that path.”

During Father Pat’s first few weeks into his priesthood, he has listened to one hundred confessions from individuals of all ages seeking his spiritual encouragement.

“What stands out is the word ‘father.’ Whether they’re a 5-year-old or a 95-year-old, they’re all calling me ‘Father,” reflected Father Pat. “What that means to fill the role of a father and the presence of God the Father in these people’s lives has been a great challenge and humbling. It’s a powerful witness to God’s work.”

The story of Father Dan Kennedy, who served at St. John the Evangelist Church for less than a year before suddenly passing away, inspired Father Pat to consider entering the priesthood.

“When I learned that I was coming here, it made sense. His presence was only here for six or seven months, but it was deep and everlasting,” explained Father Pat. “I think I have his room in the rectory. That was God’s plan.”

Father Pat attended a traditional four-year college at Loyola University, Maryland, where he double majored in theology and philosophy, with a minor in education.

“I loved the church growing up and was very interested in ministry. In high school, I loved math. It was an interesting grouping,” explained Father Pat, who was originally majoring in statistics, also. “A year and a half in, I was doing well, but my heart wasn’t in it.”

For six years, Father Pat attended Saint John’s Seminary, in Brighton, where St. Michael’s pastor, Father Chris O’Connor, served as one of his administrators. As a deacon at a parish in Beverly, Father Pat presented sermons and taught adult education. Each season during the COVID-19 pandemic, he would lead scripture studies on Facebook Live.  

“The education [minor] has helped me present the faith material well,” said Father Pat, who chuckled describing his virtual meeting attire: a clerical collar on top, and comfortable pants on the bottom.

An experience that made a lasting impression on Father Pat was during the summer of 2019, when he and a group of college students embarked on a 10 day pilgrimage to Mexico City.

“They were involved with their faith and wanted to take the next step. To be able to walk with them was a blessed opportunity,” recalled Father Pat. “A lot of them were at my ordination and first mass.”

Although neighboring villages had their own chapels, masses were infrequent, as there were few priests. One small village, home to some 20 families, was particularly withdrawn and depressed. Father Pat remembered watching two children play with a deflated ball when he first arrived. It had been punctured by broken glass from littered beer bottles.

Father Pat described a eucharistic procession (like the one held at St. Michael’s on June 19) around the village. People began peering curiously out their windows as the congregation paraded through the streets. On the day Father Pat’s missionary group departed, he overheard someone vowing to hold weekly rosaries.

“You could see the town get transformed by the Eucharist. It was beautiful. It got everyone out. The next day, we had a big soccer game with the kids. Once you bring the Eucharist to a place, it changes. They needed a jolt of light,” beamed Father Pat. “To help people, you don’t need a huge project. The Eucharist does a lot.”

Now Father Pat is acquainting himself with Winthrop, sightseeing and eating at local restaurants. The Red Sox fan enjoys outdoor activities, such as tennis, bike riding, and mini golf.  He encourages parishioners to suggest their favorite spots to watch a sunset, eat ice cream, and enjoy a seafood dinner.

“I hope that – especially coming out of the pandemic – the church continues to be a home for people, and a place to encounter God. I can tell from talking to people that they love their church, which is a great thing to come into,” said Father Pat, who aspires to foster the Youth and Family Minstry. “I am excited to see what the Lord will do here.”

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