Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape (CtC 12).
Our fellow friar of the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart.
Br. Kevin O’Connell OFM passed away at the age of 82 at 12:50 a.m. on September 18, 2010, in St. John’s Hospital of Springfield, Illinois.
Toward the end, when Kevin realized he was not going to survive, another friar told him to place his hands into the hands of God. Kevin had this quizzical look on his face and responded, I have done that all my life! I guess I will just have to squeeze God’s hand a bit harder now.
Kevin was born of William and Henrietta (nee Murphy) O’Connell on January 26, 1927, in Jackson, Mississippi. His baptismal name was William.
After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he entered the Order of Friars Minor as a tertiary brother in late 1949, receiving the name of Kevin. Two and a half years later on the fourth of July in 1952 he began his First Order novitiate and then made his simple profession on July 5, 1953. Kevin celebrated his solemn vows on July 5, 1957.
For 48 years, Kevin served the Church and the Order in faithful fraternal ministry. His list of assignments is like a travelogue throughout the central and eastern parts of Sacred Heart Province. In the four years before his solemn profession, Kevin worked at Teutopolis, St. Francis Solano in Quincy, St. Peter’s in Chicago, St. Paschal’s in Westmont (later Oak Brook), and Our Lady of Angels in Cleveland. After final vows he was at Alverna Retreat House in Indianapolis for a year, once again at Our Lady of Angels in Cleveland for four years, at the minor seminary at Westmont (Oak Brook) for a year, and then back to Alverna Retreat House for five years. In 1967 he moved to St. Mary’s in Memphis for eight years, to Nashville for a year, and to St. Augustine’s in Chicago for nine years.
Throughout his active years of service, it is interesting to note that what Kevin did in the friaries as his assignment is not ordinarily listed. Housekeeping and maintenance is presumed, but the fact is that his presence in community and his contribution to community are always noted.
Then in 1985 Kevin became a member of the community at St. Paschal’s in Oak Brook and became one of the very first members of the new group that went to Villa West (Sherman, Illinois) in 1991. His ministry at Villa west was caring for the chapel. He was oh so very diligent in his duties to make sure that all was prepared and organized for the liturgies – especially according to his own sense of orderliness.
Kevin was a man of incredible faith and a man of prayer. His statement above about his terminal condition is a simple but profound statement of faith from a man whose journey in this life was coming to an end; there was no fear in his voice – just a sense of anticipation for the life to come. As age crept up on him, he would spend more and more time in chapel praying. He continually prayer for others intentions, and always remembered the intention of vocations in the Prayers of the Faithful.
Kevin loved community life. He always enjoyed being with the friars. Anytime there was a friar gathering, Kevin was there. As a sign of community life, he was a caring and loving person. Whenever a friar or resident was ill, Kevin could often be found at the others bedside praying and offering comfort. Kevin had a sense of humor. With that twinkle in his Irish eyes and the smile on his face, he would dole out delightful tidbits of dry humor which would engender many smiles, chuckles, and outright laughs from the people at Villa West.
Kevin was a friend on a mission. Through his friendship with so many, he preached the Good News by example and not so much by words.Kevin is survived by a niece.
In lieu of flowers and in your kindness please remember Br. Kevin by making a donation to the Franciscan Community. Our Lady of Angels Friary, P .O. Box 2153 Springfield, IL 62705.
Funeral services for Kevin O’Connell OFM will be held on Tuesday, September 21, 2010, in the Villa West Chapel (100 Stardust Drive, Sherman, Illinois). 9:00am Greeting of the Body and Morning Prayer Service. 9:30-11:00am Visitation. 11:00am Mass of Christian Burial, Interment: Friars Section, Calvary Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois.
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