Statement from One LA-IAF on the Passing of Bishop David O’Connell
We are shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden and tragic death of Bishop David O’Connell. He was a beloved bishop, an extraordinary pastor, and a wonderful man. He taught thousands of One LA leaders to both love their neighbor and to fight against injustice. We will carry him in our hearts.
Bishop Dave had a long career as a leader in local Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) organizations through his decades of service in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In the 1980s and 1990s, Bishop Dave was an active leader in the South Central Organizing Committee (SCOC) as the pastor of St. Frances X. Cabrini and Ascension parishes. His ministry and organizing work addressed gun violence, historic disinvestment in what was then known as South Central Los Angeles, poverty, and the plight of undocumented immigrants.
The organizing work of Bishop Dave and SCOC led to the passage of California’s assault weapons ban in 1989, helped thousands of immigrants become citizens after the 1986 immigration reform act passed during the Reagan Administration, and shut down liquor stores in the wake of the riots following the Rodney King beating. Bishop Dave continued his IAF organizing work with St. Michael’s parish and was one of the founding leaders of One LA-IAF in 2004 when SCOC and three other local organizations merged to form a county-wide organizing effort. As a leader with One LA-IAF, Bishop Dave led efforts to win health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, expand community-based policing, assist homeowners facing foreclosure during the Great Recession, and help former prisoners obtain employment and rebuild their lives.
We will remember Bishop Dave for his emphasis on the development of parish leaders and for the love that he infused in everything that he did. Most recently, Bishop Dave played an instrumental role in the IAF’s Recognizing the Stranger training initiative, sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Recognizing the Stranger has trained over 4,000 parish leaders throughout the West and Southwest in how to utilize the skills of broad-based organizing to strengthen their communities through a culture of encounter and the building of relationships with people from different backgrounds. These themes echoed throughout Bishop Dave’s life as a pastor who was known for his presence and ministry on-the-ground, among the people. We miss him dearly and will continue to be inspired and transformed by his life and legacy.