Father Brendan M. O'Connell, MM

Born: February 28, 1936
Ordained: June 8, 1963
Died: April 16, 2020

Father Brendan M. O’Connell died on April 16, 2020 at St. Teresa’s Residence, Maryknoll, New York. He was 84 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 56 years.

Brendan Michael O’Connell was born on February 28, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York, son of Patrick and Helen Klimowski O’Connell. He was one of seven children. He attended Queen of All Saints Elementary School before graduating from Brooklyn Preparatory High School in June 1953. He entered Maryknoll Junior Seminary (Venard), Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania in June 1953 and later graduated from Maryknoll College, Glen Ellyn, Illinois in June 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy. He earned Master of Religious Education and Master of Divinity degrees in Theology from Maryknoll Seminary in 1963, and was ordained to the priesthood at Maryknoll, New York on June 8, 1963.

After ordination, Father O’Connell was assigned to the Taiwan Region where he served in the Miaoli Deanery of the Diocese of Hsinchu for eleven years. During that time he learned both Hakka and Mandarin Chinese. He was assigned as Pastor of Ching An Parish in July 1965, adding the Parish of Ta Nan Se in 1966. In September 1968 he became Pastor of Tahu Parish along with Ching An and Ta Nan Se.

During a sabbatical year of study in 1974 at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, Father O’Connell earned a Master of Science Degree in Special Education with an emphasis on mental retardation. He returned to Taiwan in 1975 and took a refresher course in Mandarin before being named Director of St. Raphael Opportunity Center in Tainan City in February 1976. He served in that capacity until July 1992. He founded the Leren Learning Center in Kaohsiung City in 1978, the St. Theresa Opportunity Center in Yuching, Tainan County in 1988, and the Republic of China Association for Mentally Handicapped Persons in 1983, serving as its first president. Father O’Connell received many awards in recognition of his work in Taiwan during these years. These included the “Republic of China Significant Service in Loving the Handicapped” award in 1977, the “Republic of China National Good Man Good Deed” award in 1983, the “Taiwan Provincial Government Social Welfare Department Ten Steps Fragrant Grass” award in 1984, the “Special Education Association of the Republic of China Special Meritorius Service” award in 1991, and the First Class Exemplar medal, presented by the Premier Hau Pei-tsun in July 1992, “in recognition of his dedication to the promotion of special education and the well-being of mentally handicapped children.”

From September 1992 through August 1995 Father O’Connell was assigned to the United States Region and worked in the Development Department. He worked out of the Yonkers Development House for one year, and then he was assigned to the Chestnut Hill (Massachusetts) House, where he served as Director.

Father O’Connell returned to Taiwan in September 1995, and continued his work to help those who are developmentally delayed to achieve their potential. In March 1997 he founded Bethlehem Foundation in Hsueh-Jia, Tainan Diocese and served as its Director. Bethlehem Foundation promoted an inclusive educational environment for infants and young children, emphasizing that children learn best from each other no matter what their ability or disability. Father O’Connell was granted retired status in March 2010, and continued to live and work in Tainan County, Taiwan. He received the 22nd National Health Services and Dedication Award in September 2012. In January 2017, Father O’Connell became the first person to be granted Taiwanese citizenship without having to renounce his original citizenship. He was invited to sing the Taiwan national anthem during National Day celebrations on October 10, 2017.

Father O’Connell returned to Maryknoll, New York in November 2017, and was assigned to the Senior Missioner Community in January 2018.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in Queen of Apostles Chapel on April 20, 2020 at 11:15 a.m. Father Kevin Hanlon was Principal Celebrant, and Father Norbert Pacheco was homilist and the reader of the Oath and biography. Burial followed in the Maryknoll Society Cemetery.