Cardinal DiNardo joins mourners in praying for healing, forgiveness after LA ‘peacemaker’ bishop’s murder

February 23, 2023

Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles lifts a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament praying for California on April 23, 2020. Bishop O’Connell, a native of Ireland who spent most of his 43 years as a priest serving in LA’s inner city, was found dead in his home on Feb. 18.  (CNS photo)

HOUSTON — Following the sudden and shocking murder of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell in late February, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo sent a message from Houston and extended his “sincere condolences and sorrow” to Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, as well as the clergy, religious and laity of the Archdiocese, and said “be assured of my closeness in prayer to you and the local Church of Los Angeles.”

“May God grant Bishop O’Connell quick entrance into heavenly glory, and richly reward him for the dedicated and faithful service he gave to the Church as a priest and a bishop,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “May he rest in the eternal embrace of the God he served so well.”

In the message, Cardinal DiNardo assured Archbishop Gomez of his “closeness in prayer to [him] and the local Church of Los Angeles.”

Less than 48 hours after the Bishop O'Connell's death, Archbishop Gomez was among the crowd of people praying in the parking lot of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights Feb. 20 that seemed to expand with each Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.

After appearing alongside Los Angeles County’s sheriff at a press conference, Archbishop Gomez made a visit to the suburban parish to pray with a community still in shock over the murder of their neighbor, Bishop O’Connell. Archbishop Gomez had called Bishop O’Connell a “peacemaker,” who was known to work in LA’s inner city for decades.

“We believe that Bishop Dave has received his recompense for his life and his ministry,” Archbishop Gomez said after leading a Rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet. “We know that he is in heaven. Let us ask for his intercession, because he will continue to stay very close to us, just as he stayed close to so many people during his life.”

About 150 people attended the prayer service held in front of a small outdoor shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the second night of a novena for Bishop O’Connell organized by local faithful.

But much had changed in the 24 hours since the mourners had last seen each other. That afternoon, law enforcement had announced the arrest of the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper, 65-year-old Carlos Medina, in the bishop’s shooting death. The suspect in the murder of Bishop O’Connell was formally charged with murder Feb. 22 after admitting to killing him. 

Medina faces one felony count of murder and a special allegation that he used a firearm, according to the LA County District Attorney’s Office. His formal arraignment is scheduled for March 22 at the Foltz Criminal Justice Center in downtown LA.

Medina is the husband of Bishop O’Connell’s housekeeper and he had done handyman work at the home, authorities said. He was arrested at his Torrance home Monday, Feb. 20, after a six-hour standoff with SWAT and LA County Sheriff’s deputies.

Long known for his pastoral work with the poor and disenfranchised in South and Central Los Angeles, O’Connell was named an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles by Pope Francis in July 2015. Since then, he had served as episcopal vicar for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region, one of the LA Archdiocese’s five regions. Bishop O'Connell was also a native of Ireland, carrying with him his distinct accent.

“Although I personally did not know the bishop, I cannot tell you how many phone calls I have received over the last 48 hours of people who have worked with him in different capacities,” said Sheriff Luna at a Feb. 20 press conference at the LA County Hall of Justice in downtown LA. “And this man, this bishop, made a huge difference in our community. He was loved.”

The night before, the vigil took place in front of the home where Bishop O’Connell lived — and died — on Janlu Avenue a few houses away from St. John Vianney. 

“I think I’m still in shock, I really am,” said Wayne Morales, who knew Bishop O’Connell through his involvement with the Catholic Men’s Fellowship of California. O’Connell was the group’s spiritual adviser and was scheduled to speak to them at an upcoming event. 

“I’ve been a bit emotional because I just don’t know how to handle this news. The man, in my eyes, was the most peaceful and loving person. Why? I just don’t understand.”

The manner of O’Connell’s death only added to the sorrow and shock. Driven by her pain, young mother Lupe Carrere bundled up her son and drove to the vigil site Sunday night. She could barely talk as she was so taken with emotion.   

“I felt compelled to come,” said Carrere, a parishioner of St. Bernard Church in Bellflower. “Just the way he died … no one deserves to die that way.”

High-schooler Sharon Gonzalez came with her mother that night to pay her respects to the bishop she altar-served for over the last six years. 

“Bishop was someone very special to me,” said Gonzalez. “Before every Mass, we (altar servers) would be super nervous because he’s the bishop. He would say, ‘Don’t be nervous, it’s just me.’… he was super humble.”

- With reporting by Pablo Kay and Natalie Romano, Angelus News