From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda
Earlier this year, Michael O’Connell petitioned Pope Francis for a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, commonly referred to as a “request for laicization.” I have recently been informed that the Holy Father has granted Michael’s request, dispensing him from all the obligations of the clerical state, including that of clerical celibacy. That means that Michael, who had withdrawn from public priestly ministry in 2016, would not be able to return to ordinary public ministry without permission of the Holy Father.
I am frequently reminded that Michael served this Archdiocese generously from the date of his ordination, February 18, 1967, until his withdrawal from ministry, including as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. As pastor at Ascension and Rector of the Basilica of Saint Mary, he was well-known as a tireless advocate for the expansion of educational opportunities for inner-city families and as founder of the Jeremiah Program, an initiative that gives new hope to single mothers and their children across the United States.
While his priestly ministry will be sorely missed by many, I am hopeful that Pope Francis’ decision will open new avenues for Michael to serve.