Mgr.  Gerard O'Connor

Mgr. Gerard O’Connor

The New Year will bring a new rector to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in northwest Portland. From January 1, Mgr. Gerard O’Connor, director of the Office of Divine Worship, is in charge of the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Portland.

Mgr. Patrick Brennan, who has headed the cathedral for a decade, will begin full-time work at the Archdiocese of Portland court before his retirement in June. Canon lawyer, the Monsignor is currently judicial vicar or head of the archdiocesan tribunal and will continue this role at the pastoral center.

“There is an urgent and great need” for the Bishop’s “talents and ministry” in court, Archbishop Alexander Sample said in a November 24 letter to parishioners at the cathedral. “I am very grateful to Mgr. Brennan for her priestly ministry, generous heart, and willingness to set aside her own plans to focus her attention on the needs of the Tribunal and the needs of the parish.

A native of Portland ordained for the Archdiocese in 1977, Msgr. Brennan had health issues that led to her decision to retire early. He will reside in the St. John Vianney Retirement Community in Beaverton and will continue to work in court for as long as he can.

“As Judicial Vicar of the Archdiocese, I certainly know the need for full-time assistance in court, and I have accepted the kind invitation of Archbishop Sample,” said Mgr. Brennan told cathedral parishioners in a letter on Dec. 1. “However, leaving my parish and my home is not an easy task. To say goodbye to a committed staff, active guidance and so many friends and families causes me great sadness. I depend on the grace of the Holy Spirit and your prayers to carry me through. “

Mgr. O’Connor, a priest on loan from the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, will continue in the Office of Divine Worship while serving as rector.

“I am enthusiastic about the mission and I can’t wait to return to parish life,” said Mgr. O’Connor. “I was ordained a priest 20 years ago and spent 10 years in administration and 10 in a parish. I know what I prefer. The Bishop added that he is eager to serve in a parish with a school.

Mgr. O’Connor will carry the title of “rector” rather than “pastor”. Although he has all the responsibilities of a pastor, Mgr. O’Connor says “rector” emphasizes that the archbishop is the real pastor of the cathedral.

Initially loaned to the Archdiocese for three years, Mgr. O’Connor’s mission was extended by three more. It is not known whether he is the first non-local priest to lead the cathedral, but he is at least the only clergyman to do so in recent decades.

When asked if he could ever become a priest in the Archdiocese of Portland, he replied that it would involve his bishop and his discernment “but I wouldn’t say that was impossible”.

Right now he’s focused on his upcoming role.

“The cathedral is a beautiful church with a very beautiful community,” said Mgr. O’Connor. “I arrive with a lot of enthusiasm.

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