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Denis J. O'Connell

Denis Joseph O'Connell
Bishop of Richmond
Monsignor O'Connell as rector
of the North American College
SeeDiocese of Richmond
InstalledMarch 19, 1912
Term endedJanuary 15, 1926
PredecessorAugustine Van de Vyver
SuccessorAndrew James Louis Brennan
Other post(s)Auxiliary Bishop of
San Francisco
OrdinationMay 26, 1877
by Raffaele Monaco La Valletta
ConsecrationMay 3, 1908
by Cardinal James Gibbons
Personal details
Born(1849-01-28)January 28, 1849
DiedJanuary 1, 1927(1927-01-01) (aged 77)
Richmond, Virginia,
BuriedSacred Heart Cathedral, Richmond, Virginia,
United States
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsMichael and Bridget O'Connell
Alma materPontifical North American College

Denis J. O'Connell (January 28, 1849 – January 1, 1927) was an Irish-born American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as bishop of the Diocese of Richmond in Virginia from 1912 to 1926. He previously served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in California from 1908 to 1912.

Before becoming a bishop, O'Connell served as rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome, then as rector of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


Early life

O'Connell was born on January 28, 1849, in Donoughmore, County Cork to Michael and Bridget O'Connell. His family emigrated to the United States and settled in Columbia, South Carolina, where his father's two brothers, Jeremiah and Joseph O'Connell, were serving as missionary priests.[1]

As a young man, O'Connell felt called to be a priest and entered St. Charles College in Ellicott City, Maryland, in 1868.[2] In part due to the influence of his uncles, in 1871 he was sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical North American College.[1] "So brilliant was the young man that at his examination for the degree of Doctor of Divinity the cardinal prefect and examining professors accorded it to him by acclamation instead of by the usual method of balloting."[3]


O'Connell was ordained in Rome for the Diocese of Richmond on May 26, 1877, by Cardinal Raffaele La Valletta.[4]

When Bishop James Gibbons was appointed archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, he sent O'Connell to Rome in November as his procurator to accept the bishop's pallium. In 1884, O'Connell became secretary to Gibbons, and was sent to Rome with the decrees of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.

In 1885, O'Connell was appointed rector of the North American College a position he held until 1895.[5][4] In 1887, he was given the papal honor of domestic prelate with the title of monsignor.[6] Upon his return to Richmond, O'Connell was assigned to St. Peter's Parish. From 1903 to 1909, he served as the third rector of The Catholic University of America.[6]

On December 16, 1907, O'Connell was appointed as titular bishop of Sebaste in Phrygia by Pope Pius X. O'Connell was consecrated at Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore by Cardinal Gibbons on May 3, 1908.[4]

Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco

On December 24, 1908, O'Connell was appointed by Pius X as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of San Francisco[6][4]

Bishop of Richmond

On January 19, 1912, O'Connell was appointed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Richmond by Pius X.[7]

O'Connell's resignation due to health reasons as bishop of the Diocese of Richmond was accepted by the pope on January 15, 1926; he was named the titular bishop of Mariamme.[8][4]

Denis O'Connell died on January 1, 1927, in Richmond at age 77.[4] Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia, founded when the location was still part of the Diocese of Richmond, is named for him.


  1. ^ a b Barry, C.J. "O'Connell, Denis Joseph". New Catholic Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on February 20, 2016. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  2. ^ Fogarty, Gerald; Fogarty, Gerald P. (1974). The Vatican and the Americanist Crisis. Rome: Gregorian Biblical Book Shop. ISBN 9788876524578.
  3. ^ Arline Boucher and John Tehan (1962), Prince of Democracy: James Cardinal Gibbons, 1966 reprint, New York: Doubleday Image, Ch. 5, "The Road to Baltimore", p. 93.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Bishop Denis Joseph O'Connell [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2022-06-01.
  5. ^ Portier, William L. (2013). Divided Friends. Washington, D.C.: CUA Press. ISBN 9780813221649.
  6. ^ a b c “Most Rev. Denis Joseph O'Connell, D. D.” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 13, no. 1, 1927, pp. 100–104. JSTOR
  7. ^ Catholic Virginian Vol93, No6 Jan 15, 2018
  8. ^ "Bishop of Richmond to Resign". The New York Times. 1926-03-10. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-06-01.
Academic offices Preceded byLouis Hostlot Rector of the Pontifical North American College 1885–1895 Succeeded byWilliam H. O'Connell Preceded byThomas J. Conaty Rector of CUA 1903–1909 Succeeded byThomas J. Shahan
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Denis J. O'Connell
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