Fr. O’Connor, S.J. joins the WJ community

Fr. Paul O'Connor comes to the school community as minister, teacher, and companion

After energetically “checking” the member of the opposing team, Paul O’Connor watched as the player shattered and flew through the glass wall. As a defender for the Marquette Warriors, he well knew these things happen in hockey.

Paul O’Connor skates down the rink to take a shot for the Wildcats when he played hockey for St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland.

Fr. Paul O’Connor, previously missioned to St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, arrived at Walsh this summer. A native Ohioan, he attended St. Ignatius High School where he played hockey and soccer. He went on to play hockey as a walk-on at Marquette University but received his undergraduate degree from Canisius College. In addition to continuing his passion for hockey, Fr. O’Connor earned a place on Canisius’ Division I varsity soccer team as a junior walk-on. Given his competitive nature, he was completely astonished when God called him to a priestly vocation. After all, O’Connor had a girlfriend at the time and eventually saw himself getting married.

After realizing his calling, he waited to see what religious order God would want him to join. He began teaching at Trinity High School where he coached hockey and soccer and led retreat teams. He noted, “God always wants to use our gifts and talents for the Kingdom, so I knew the Jesuits or another religious order were a better fit for me [rather than becoming a diocesan priest].” His experiences as a student in Jesuit schools led him to the Society of Jesus.

This is Fr. O’Connor’s team roster photo from his freshmen year are Marquette University.

Since Fr. O’Connor joined the Jesuits, he has loved their involvement in many different ministries, including teaching and retreats. He believes high school is important because it was very formative while he was there; he wants to give that gift back to students and let them make the most of their time at Walsh Jesuit.

Fr. O’Connor has been missioned to Walsh Jesuit for at least three to five years. He hopes his time here will be extended but knows it is up to God and his provincial. Meanwhile, Fr. O’Connor devotes his time in three different areas including teaching Ignatian Spirituality to seniors. Senior Max Zaller said, “Father O’Connor is one of the best teachers I’ve had at Walsh and exemplifies what it means to be ‘a man for others.’ His class is one of the best classes I have taken at Walsh… Father O’Connor is the man!”

His second responsibility is mission and identity work through which he takes part in the Coaching Formation Program and the Vocations Committee. Sacramental ministry rounds out Fr. O’Connor’s duties. He helps with religious services like Kairos, Reconciliation, and Mass. Senior Jenny Sobnosky commented, “Father O’Connor’s homilies are interactive and he walks around speaking to everyone in the congregation. They are always meaningful and relatable to us as high school students.”

Fr. O’Connor hopes students are able to connect to him and his priestly vocation. One thing he emphasizes for those interested in the priesthood is to be open to the  invitation from God. He then suggests praying to God and talking to others about the calling to determine whether or not priesthood is the right option. According to Fr. O’Connor, if young men do decide to say yes to God, they will soon realize that they will be the “most joyful, happy, and free in their lives.”