The Rev. Timothy J. O’Connor arrived at St. Vincent Parish in Akron with an open heart and open mind.
“This is where the Lord wants me to be. I have told the people that I want to become one with them and one of them,” said O’Connor, 64. “While I know that the Lord has sent me here, I am still praying and waiting to see what the Lord has planned for me at this parish.”
O’Connor came to St. Vincent (the oldest Catholic Church in Akron) on June 15, after spending 18 years as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Avon Lake. As the longest-serving pastor there, he led the congregation in building a new church, expanding its school and renovating the former church building into St. Joseph Hall.
During his tenure, the parish began offering the only Sunday evening Mass in Lorain County, added more than 50 ministries, welcomed more than 200 converts and completed three successful capital campaigns.
But O’Connor is not dwelling on the past. He is quick to borrow a quote of another priest, saying “I told the parishioners that ‘I will resist the temptation to compare you with my last parish, if you resist the temptation to compare me with your former pastor.’ ”
O’Connor replaces the Rev. Joseph H. Kraker, who retired last month after 18 years as pastor of St. Vincent.
Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Richard G. Lennon said he believes O’Connor is a good fit for the parish because he has strong pastoral and administrative skills.
“He is very balanced. He has a strong commitment to helping people grow spiritually, to Catholic education, to the liturgy and to outreach to those in need. All of those things will be beneficial at St. Vincent,” Lennon said. “I got a note from a parishioner at St. Joseph who said that St. Vincent doesn’t know the blessing they are receiving in Father O’Connor. He certainly knows how to collaborate with people and how to seek advice, and he is a very good listener.”
O’Connor, a Napoleon, Ohio, native, was ordained a priest in 1975. He attended Borromeo Seminary High School and earned his undergraduate degree in English at Borromeo Seminary College in Wickliffe. He also earned graduate degrees in divinity at St. Mary Seminary, Cleveland; in music education at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and in liturgical studies at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind.
Prior to his pastorate at St. Joseph, he served as secretary to Bishop Emeritus Anthony M. Pilla and assistant chancellor in the Cleveland diocesan offices. His service in the diocese also includes associate director of the Office for Pastoral Liturgy; diocesan director of music; associate pastor at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, chaplain at Rose–Mary Center in Euclid and associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary Parish in South Euclid.
O’Connor is the oldest of six children and spent a lot of his youth moving around because of his late father’s employment in labor relations with General Motors. He attributes the family moves to his ability to adapt to new surroundings.
“I’ve always tried to make my home where I am. Although I have spent most of my time in Lorain County, Akron is my home now,” O’Connor said. “Part of being a disciple is going where you’re sent. The people of St. Vincent have been so warm and the wonderful thing about the church is that we’re all one family, so whether I’m in Cleveland, Avon Lake or Akron, I’m home.”
Terri Zakraysek, of Euclid, met O’Connor 30 years ago, when he was an associate at the Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. She credits him with helping her grow in her faith.
“I was a young college student, struggling to make sense of my faith. I showed up one day at the Cathedral, thinking I might go to Mass there on Holy Days, and Father O’Connor was the first person I ran into,” said Zakraysek, now the secretary and registrar at Borromeo Seminary. “He is a wonderful, wonderful priest and a really good man. I am so grateful for his patience and his willingness to help me find answers about my faith. He is a big of part of why I ended up working for the diocese for 26 years.”
The Rev. John Schneider also considers O’Connor a spiritual mentor. Schneider, a former parishioner at St. Joseph in Avon Lake, was ordained in 2011. He serves as parochial vicar (or associate pastor) at Holy Family Parish in Parma.
“He’s a living example of how to live your life as a Christian. He’s very warm and welcoming to everyone,” Schneider said. “His life exemplifies how the priesthood can lead to personal happiness. He is such a kind and pastoral priest. He’s committed and caring and very supportive. His example and encouragement were a major influence in my becoming a priest.”
As a priest, O’Connor said, he strives to build relationships with parishioners and people in the community.
“I like being around people and meeting new people,” O’Connor said. “I will be looking to see what the needs are in the community and trying to figure out where I can fit in to help meet those needs.”
Mass times at St. Vincent, 164 W. Market St., are 6:30 a.m. weekdays, 5 p.m. Saturdays and 7, 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays.
For more information, call 330-535-3135 or go to www.stvincentchurch.com.
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or email@example.com.