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Archbishop José H. Gomez opens Religious Education Congress remembering life of murdered Bishop David G. O’Connell

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez pours oil on the head of Auxiliary Bishop David G. O'Connell during his Sept. 8, 2015, episcopal ordination at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. He was one of three LA auxiliaries ordained that day. On Feb. 18, 2023, Bishop O'Connell was found dead of a gunshot wound at his home The first anniversary of his shocking killing prompted reflections and commemorations from Catholic leaders about the bishop's joy and love of Jesus Christ. (OSV News/CNS file, John Rueda, The Tidings)

The first anniversary of the shocking killing of Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell prompted reflections and commemorations from Catholic leaders about the bishop’s joy and love of Jesus Christ. The anniversary comes as his alleged killer is expected to face trial later this year.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles commemorated Bishop O’Connell in opening remarks at the Religious Education Congress held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.

“As we begin our Religious Education Congress, we are feeling the loss of our beloved Bishop David O’Connell, who died early last year. I still miss him every day. I know many of you miss him too,” the archbishop said Feb. 16. “He was a beautiful man, with a shepherd’s heart. He loved Jesus Christ and he was always a joyful presence.”

Bishop Dave always had a warm, friendly smile. And I know he is looking down on us this weekend from heaven, and he is smiling,” Archbishop Gomez said in remarks the Los Angeles Archdiocese provided to OSV News. “I know he is praying for all of us and the work we do to share the love of Jesus in our world today.”

Bishop O’Connell was originally from Brooklodge, Glanmire in County Cork, the southernmost county in Ireland. He studied for the priesthood at the former All Hallows College in Dublin and was ordained a priest to serve in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1979.

He became known as ‘the Peacemaker’ for his work to prevent gang violence and to help immigrants. He helped make peace in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Pope Francis named him an auxiliary bishop for the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s San Gabriel Pastoral Region in 2015.

Bishop O’Connell was found shot and killed at home in Hacienda Heights, a Los Angeles suburb, on Feb. 18, 2023. Police believe the bishop was asleep in bed when he was shot.

Two days after the shooting, Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies detained Carlos Medina as the prime suspect. Medina, now 62, was a handyman whose wife was a housekeeper for the 69-year-old bishop.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, at a Feb. 22 news conference last year, said Medina admitted the killing to investigators. However, Medina pleaded not guilty to murder at a March 2023 arraignment, the district attorney’s office told OSV News.

The Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office sent OSV News a statement from Pedro Cortes, the deputy public defender representing Medina.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy,” Cortes said. “Myself as well as Mr. Medina’s defense team look forward to fully investigating all aspects of this case.”

“The defense team is working tirelessly to fully understand the events of February 18, 2023,” he said. “We remain committed to ensuring that all of Mr. Medina’s constitutional rights are upheld, including his presumption of innocence.”

Medina faces two charges of felony murder and using a firearm while committing a crime. He could face a 35-year prison sentence if convicted.

A preliminary hearing was held Jan. 10 according to the online records of the Superior Court of California of Los Angeles County. The next preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 13. A trial date has not been set, but is expected to be scheduled for later this year.

Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, mourned the death of the bishop and praised his life.

“The loss of Bishop Dave O’Connell was a tremendous loss to the church in California,” Domingo told OSV News. “He truly was the best of us.”

“Bishop Dave had a way of making every person he met feel as though he knew them intimately and understood exactly what they were going through. Because of this, he was able to walk into meetings with civic leaders and elected officials and share the Gospel without scorn,” she continued.

“He was friends with every type of person from every background and point of view. More than anything, Bishop Dave loved Jesus and wanted to share the love of Jesus with everyone he met,” Domingo said. “As we commemorate one year since his tragic murder, we recognize that we have been made better humans for having known and been loved by Bishop Dave. He truly is our patron saint in California!”

Bishop O’Connell is the second Catholic bishop in U.S. history known to have been a victim of homicide within the United States or its territories. The first was Archbishop Charles John Seghers, a Belgian missionary known as the “apostle to Alaska,” who was killed Nov. 28, 1886, near Nulato, in the then-U.S. territory of Alaska, by his guide who went insane.

A Mass commemorating the first anniversary of Bishop O’Connell’s death is set for Feb. 24, 10 a.m. local time, at the San Gabriel Mission in San Gabriel, California. The Mass will be livestreamed on the Los Angeles archdiocese YouTube channel.