Pope names new bishop for Diocese of Trenton

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop John M. Smith as head of the Diocese of Trenton, it was announced on Dec. 1 in the Vatican.

Bishop David M. O’Connell Bishop David M. O’Connell Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who was named coadjutor bishop six months earlier by Pope Benedict, now succeeds to the diocesan see as the 10th bishop of Trenton.

Smith, a native of Orange, had served as the ninth bishop of Trenton since July 1, 1997.

He submitted his resignation on June 23, his 75th birthday, in accordance with canon 401.1 of the Code of Canon Law. The resignation was to become effective upon the pope’s acceptance, according to a press release.

The diocesan family will commemorate the transition of pastoral governance from Smith to O’Connell during a 12:10 p.m. Mass on Dec. 8 on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. All are welcome to attend.

Born April 21, 1955, in Philadelphia and raised in Langhorne, Pa., O’Connell is one of four sons of Arthur J. and June O’Connell. His mother, now 84, still resides in the Philadelphia area; his father passed away in 2005.

Appointed by the pope on June 4 as Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, then-Father O’Connell was concluding his 12th and final year as president of the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States.

A priest of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, also known as the Vincentians, O’Connell was ordained to the episcopacy on July 30 by Smith in the presence of more than 1,000 loved ones and well wishers gathered in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, and then-Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington (who has since been named a cardinal) served as co-ordaining bishops.

O’Connell responded to the Dec. 1 announcement in a message to the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese, referring to his new ministry as “an awesome responsibility that I accept with humility and gratitude.” He said of Smith: “I offer him our profound gratitude as well as our abiding love, prayer and support. So much good has been accomplished in our diocese thanks to his wisdom, strong leadership and steady hand over these years.”

O’Connell cited three concerns he plans to address — bringing Catholics back to Sunday Mass; bolstering Catholic education, especially in Catholic schools and religious education programs; and increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

In his remarks to the diocesan community, Smith said, “As I think of my years here my mind is flooded by a million memories of events and moments of grace that we have shared. I pray that you have come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ more fully and come to appreciate the wonders of his Church more completely through my humble ministry. The words of St. Augustine perhaps say best what is in my heart: ‘I am a bishop for you, but a Christian with you.’ ”

Established in 1881, the Diocese of Trenton comprises Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean counties with a Catholic population of 830,000. The diocese has 211 priests, 338 permanent deacons and 445 religious men and women serving in 111 parishes, 36 Catholic elementary schools and eight high schools.