2000-05-13 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey
Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey and Eugene Pasternak with Cardinal O'Connor at the Knights and Dames of Malta dinner last year. Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey and Eugene Pasternak with Cardinal O'Connor at the Knights and Dames of Malta dinner last year.

On Monday, May 8, 2000, we attended the funeral for John Cardinal
O'Connor at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The love and respect for the Cardinal
came from all the corners of the city and the nation. It is truly inspiring
to see people from every walk of life pause to pay tribute to the Cardinal.
He was a strong moral leader.

The Pope sent His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, to be the principal celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Cardinal Sodano also said the funeral mass for Mother Teresa.

National, state and city elected officials came to the mass to give their
final respects to Cardinal O'Connor. He knew them many of them personally and had touched their lives.

During the weekend, there were services at the Cathedral for different
groups that the Cardinal had worked with, including the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, the Legion of Mary, the clergy, the military, children and the disabled. On Friday evening, at 7:30 p.m., there was a special mass at the Cathedral for the Knights and Dames of Malta and the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre to bid farewell to their leader. As members of both
groups, we attended that mass also.

In his homily at that mass, Bishop McCarthy compared the Cardinal to a prism. He noted that a prism reflects light to show beauty and complexity. The rays of Cardinal O'Connor since he first came to New York in 1984 radiated clarity and compassion. He will be known as a person whose spontaneity and laughter cheered others. He was a very gifted and multi-faceted man. He always wore a rose on his lapel. The rose signified that he was the voice of the unborn. Even in death the rose of life is still on him. He wore it like the Old Testament prophet.

Bishop Mc Carthy noted that the Cardinals life was a testament to many worthy causes: the poor, the homeless, recent immigrants, and racial and ethnic minorities. He was an avid proponent of affordable housing. He created a scholarship fund for the education of minorities. He worked with and for people who have AIDS. He opened the Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center to assist people with varied health problems.

Cardinal O'Connor lived the corporal works of mercy. In the evening he could often go to the hospitals and sit quietly and talk with patients who
had AIDS. He unceremoniously would visit patients at St. Clare's or
St. Vincent's to bring them a kind word and some cheer.

Cardinal O'Connor understood that a prism transmits what comes from
another source. He was an instrument. He radiated God's words, actions and deeds. His legacy is that he saved lives. He saved the unborn, the hungry, the victims of war, the victims of oppression and the forgotten. He proclaimed his faith with strength and courage.

His eminence William Cardinal Baum noted that John Cardinal O'Connor worked to promote good relations between Christians and Jews. The relationship is more solid because of the Cardinals commitment to strengthening these bonds. In addition, he worked to promote Christian unity. Cardinal O'Connor's heart was filled with universal love because he patterned himself after Christ.

Labor unions are grateful to the Cardinal for his support of working men and women. In fact, on March 6, 2000, the New York Times ran a full page ad stating "350,000 union members say thank you to the Patron Saint of Working People." Cardinal O'Connor always remembered his roots. He was proud that his father was a union man. He often said that the union gave his family a decent wage so that his father could support his family. He adamantly and vocally defended the rights of labor unions and their members. In fact, his
casket has a union label on it.

John Cardinal O'Connor came to New York in 1984 and promised to love all of s. He did. Now for all the ways he touched our lives we say thank you to him for being there when we needed him.

On Thursday, May 18 at 8:15 p.m. Melinda Katz, the director of Queens Community Planning Boards, will be addressing the Regular Democratic Club of the Rockaways at 104-02 Rockaway Beach boulevard on illegal conversions and other community issues. Please attend.

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