We are indebted to Msgr Michael J. Wrenn for the following tribute to the late Cardinal O'Connor of New York, who died on 3 May (see June AD2000). This tribute was delivered on the occasion of the Cardinal's 80th birthday. Msgr Wrenn was a long-time catechetical advisor to Cardinal O'Connor.
Your Eminence, our esteemed father in Christ, John Joseph, I will always remember your calling me at Dunwoodie [the New York Archdiocesan Seminary] from Scranton, where you had just recently been named Bishop. You discussed with me the possibility of starting a Catechetical Institute within your department of education. This was the period in New York, following the death of your predecessor, Cardinal Terence Cooke, and I made bold to predict that you would be his successor. I recall your immediate reply: "Michael, I always knew you were daft." The rest is history
The untimely death of your good and great friend, Bishop James Kileen, whose first Mass I attended in 1942 at St Jerome's in the South Bronx, brought you to New York to work in the Military Ordinariate and to the keen attention of Cardinal Cooke and our Holy Father. What a blessing for the Church of New York.
On 12 April 2000, the Parish of St John the Evangelist [Msgr Wrenn's parish] will be celebrating the 160th anniversary of its foundation on the site of your beloved Cathedral of St Patrick.
Who would have ever thought, eighty years ago, when you were born in the city of Brotherly Love [Philadephia] and baptised, John Joseph, that in God's providence, you would occupy the See of New York and that not only would your offices be located on the site of the fifth edifice of the Parish of St John, 1011 First Avenue, but that the Chapel of your residence at 52 Madison Avenue would bear the name in honour of St John the Evangelist! In a very special way, then, you are an esteemed and eminent member of our parish.
As Catholic citizens of New York City and the upstate counties salute you on your birthday and thank you for your years of service to the people of God throughout the Archdiocese and the Ecclesiastical Province of New York, my fellow priests and parishioners pledge you their love and genuine affection.
We pray that, in the years remaining to you, your courageous witness to and acceptance of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ will redound to the spiritual good of so many in your beloved Archdiocese. May Mary, Our Lady of New York, enfold the mantle of her comforting tenderness and protection about you.