Born: 6th March 1933, County Kerry, Ireland.
Ordained: 17th June 1956, All Hallows Dublin.
Died: 28th February 2021, Trafalgar, Victoria.
Requiem Mass: St Joseph's Trafalgar, 4th March 2021
Priest extraordinaire, everybody's friend, with the happiest disposition, pastoral, compassionate and loving all giving man of God.
Fr Tom O’Connell made his way to Australia in 1956 commencing ministry at Yallourn, then in the Parishes of Sale, Bairnsdale, Morwell, Leongatha, Neerim South, Wonthaggi, Koo Wee Rup, Cowwarr, Dalyston, Omeo, Fish Creek and Trafalgar and as Director of Propagation of the Faith.
Fr Tom will be remembered for his extrovert personality and priestly goodness. In both the joy and desert places of his ministry he had wonderful ‘angel messengers’ who walked with him and he with them. As a brother priest he brought friendship, delights, stories and songs to the presbyterate of Sale.
On taking up his appointment to Trafalgar, in 1980 he went visiting one of the parishioners. Just has he approached the washing line where the baby nappies were being dried, the wire snapped. The nappies fell, the young mother struggling to collect her washing. Suddenly beside her were his shiny black shoes and his enormous smile, a warm voice saying – “My dear you look like you could do with a blessing.” This was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Tom, was a legend at the Trafalgar Golf Club. He was often heard to say after a few practice swings measuring his stance, eyeing the ball, “Now Stay still you little blighter, I'm going to hit you.”
Tom took on all the new opportunities to exercise his priestly gifts throughout his 19 appointments. He loved every minute, naming Gippsland ‘the Garden of Australia’.
Fr Tom is the last of a long line of beautiful Irish priests who left their homeland and made Australia home, enriching the Diocese of Sale and Gippsland by their priestly goodness compassion and love.
Fr Tom is survived by his sibling’s Fr Maurice (Moss) and Sheila, who live overseas and two nieces, Katie and Una and nephew Aiden in Australia.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Photo: Catholic Life Achives.