Friday, March 2, 2012

Hooray for Hollywood!

Hooray indeed that RKO Studios agreed to release Patrick J. O'Connor, one of their rising stars, from a three year studio contract he had signed in 1924. This actor, a recent graduate of the Catholic University of America, was bitten by the theater bug and had gone to Hollywood to seek his fortune. However, after only two years of touring with the RKO Orpheum Circuit, O'Connor felt that God was calling him to the the priesthood. When he told his producer that he needed to go to seminary, the studio reluctantly agreed to discharge him from his contractual obligation. Patrick O'Connor, a cousin of Flannery O'Connor's father, Edward, was born in Savannah in 1902, the youngest of five children. After graduating from seminary, O'Connor was ordained to the priesthood in 1933 and went on to serve in various positions throughout the diocese. In 1936 he was appointed to the faculty of his alma mater, Catholic University, as professor of Sacred Eloquence in its school of theology. In his twenty years at the university it is estimated that he taught more than 3,000 seminarians and lay students. While in Washington, Fr. O'Connor was tapped to be director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1950. He is credited with raising more than $15 million for the construction of the shrine's main building. After leaving the nation's capital, the by-then Monsignor O'Connor went on to have a distinguished career in the archdiocese of Atlanta. In addition to his rather considerable skills as teacher, administrator, and fund-raiser, Msgr. O'Connor is remembered for his preaching eloquence. Perhaps that is why the O'Connor family asked him to offer the benediction when his cousin, Flannery, was laid to rest at Memory Hill Cemetery on August 4, 1964. The prayer that the elegant, white-haired orator said at the graveside included these words: "...and if by reason of sin she may have forfeited eternal life in heaven..." According to Brad Gooch, the prelate "rendered the word 'may' with such lack of conviction as to make the phrase superfluous." (Brad Gooch: Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor; p.370) Msgr. O'Connor retired from active ministry in 1967. He died at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta on August 1, 1980 at the age of 78. Those wishing to learn more about the remarkable life and ministry of Monsignor Patrick J. O'Connor are encouraged to check out the article by Rita H. DeLorme in the April 20, 2006 edition of Southern Cross, the newsweekly for the Diocese of Savannah.
- Mark

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