Deacon Charles O’Connor remembered as a person of great faith
by Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
St. Ann’s Church in Syracuse was filled to capacity with those wishing to pay respect to Deacon Charles “Chuck” O’Connor at his funeral on Wednesday, Oct. 1. Bishop Thomas Costello presided at the Mass of Christian Burial.
Deacon O’Connor passed away Saturday, Sept. 27, at his home in Camillus at the age of 77. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, the former Patricia McGrath; his children, Ann O’Connor, Matthew and his wife, Theresa O’Connor, Mary O’Connor and Nancy O’Connor; grandchildren, Margaret Carcaterra and Timothy, James and Patrick O’Connor; three sisters, Mary Lou (Andrew) Katko, Maureen (Charles) Gridley and Donna (Carmen) Parenti; sisters-in law, Eleanor O’Connor and Marian O’Connor; his aunt, Tatiana Gaffney; many nieces, nephews and cousins.
After graduating from Most Holy Rosary High School in Syracuse and St. Jerome’s College in Kitchener, Ontario, Deacon O’Connor established the Charles O’Connor Insurance Agency in 1970.
After retiring from the agency in 1992, Deacon O’Connor was ordained into the Permanent diocanate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse in 1993 and was assigned to St. Ann’s Church. He served St. Ann’s as the director for Mass for shut-ins, as a member of the first parish council and as a trustee and member of the choir.
Deacon O’Connor was also active in the community. In 1997, he assumed the ministry of Catholic chaplaincy at Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center. Deacon O’Connor was also a life member of the Taunton Volunteer Fire Department and the Onondaga County Volunteer Fireman’s Association. As a member of the volunteer fire department he specialized in first aid and rescue and was a member of the first class of emergency medical technicians. He also served as chaplain of the Taunton Volunteer Fire Department.
Deacon O’Connor also served as a member of the Knights of Columbus, as president of the Onondaga Kiwanis and was a volunteer for Hospice of Central New York.
Father Brian Lang, pastor at St. Ann’s and St. Charles Borromeo Churches in Syracuse, began his homily at the funeral Mass by quoting an Irish proverb given to him by his brother, Father James Lang, diocesan Vicar for Parishes: “On the day of your birth you cried and the world rejoiced. On the day of your passing, may you rejoice and the world cry.”
Reflecting on Deacon O’Connor’s deep faith, Father Lang said, “I’ve never seen a person approach God like Chuck. He did so with faith, honesty, anticipation and humor.”
Father Lang used the example of the way Deacon O’Connor lived his life as he talked about the way he said most priests conduct funeral Masses. “We, as priests at funerals,” said Father Lang, “tend to do the wrong thing — we eulogize instead of homilize. When we eulogize, we say life is over — we forget to talk about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. When we don’t homilize, we neuter faith. Faith is the heart of the person that Chuck is.”
Father Lang also described Deacon O’Connor as a person of great hope. “The Beatitudes are about hope,” said Father Lang. ‘We are people of hope and we cannot neuter it— it would be an insult to Chuck. You can’t neuter faith and hope.”
Father Lang recalled a recent instance in which Deacon O’Connor portrayed his humorous side. Father Richard Tucker had asked his advice about a matter and Deacon O’Connor replied, “Drink good scotch!”
Father Lang concluded that Deacon O’Connor lived with deep faith which he never compromised. “He lived with hope and an outstanding love of Christ and humanity,” said Father Lang.
Bishop Costello offered his reflections on Deacon O’Connor at the conclusion of the Mass. “He was untiring in his ministry here on earth,” the bishop said. “This farewell will express our affection for him.”