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Cardinal names new director for Propagation of the Faith


Father Thomas A. Kopp Pilot file photo

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BRIGHTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has announced that he has accepted the request of Msgr. Andrew F. Connell to retire as archdiocesan director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies: Propagation of the Faith, Holy Childhood, and St. Peter the Apostle, and has also granted Msgr. Connell senior priest status effective Oct. 30. The cardinal has also announced that he has appointed Father Thomas A. Kopp, up until now pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Halifax, as the successor of Msgr. Connell as director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies.

Msgr. Andrew F. Connell

A Newton native, Msgr. Connell grew up in a parish made famous, at least in part, by a number of its pastors. In his grammar school years, Bishop Francis Spellman was the pastor, and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XXI visited the parish. In his high school years, the indomitable Bishop Richard Cushing was pastor. By an interesting twist of history, Bishop Cushing is widely remembered for his development and expansion of the Pontifical Mission Societies of which he was once archdiocesan director and so one of Msgr. Connell’s predecessors.

Bishop Cushing’s love of the missions created a “missionary culture” in the archdiocese which increased not only the monetary support of the missions but more importantly the dramatic increase in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life with special missionary emphases.

Certainly in the bishop’s own parish, this spirit must have been readily received and the young Andrew Connell certainly was so influenced.

Following his seminary formation at St. John’s Seminary, Archbishop Cushing ordained Father Connell to priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on April 25, 1951. His first and what was to be his only parish assignment was as an assistant at St. George Parish, Framingham where he served for eight years until 1959 when he moved to a 12-year tenure as assistant director of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Pope Paul VI named him a chaplain of His Holiness on Sept. 27, 1965; and on July 22, 1969 named him a prelate of honor.

Archbishop Humberto Me-deiros named Msgr. Connell as director of Pontifical Missionary Societies on Nov. 14, 1972 and he will have served in that position just two weeks shy of 35 years with his retirement on Oct. 30.

During these years he has lived in residence at St. Vincent de Paul in South Boston and has maintained his offices at the familiar storefront at 49 Franklin Street in Downtown Boston.

During his 48 years of service to the Pontifical Missionary Societies, Msgr. Connell has become a familiar face and voice to pastors and people in parishes across the archdiocese. While much of his effort is to coordinate the scheduling of visiting missionaries on the various appeals and fund raising efforts, he has himself been no stranger to visiting parishes for the same causes.

Whether personally or through others, the appeals that have occurred during Msgr. Connell’s service have raised millions of much needed and deeply appreciated support for missionary activities in numerous nations and diverse dioceses of Africa and Asia.

Msgr. Connell frequently shared in this paper the reflection and reactions, words of gratitude and stories of the effect of the generosity of the people of the archdiocese which he received as archdiocesan director. Surely those thousands of thanks for the millions of dollars of support must also echo from the archdiocese for this faithful priestly missionary.

In his retirement Msgr. Connell will live in his own home in Marshfield and will have the chance, especially in better weather, to pursue with greater freedom his third love -- after the priesthood and the missions -- golf.

Father Thomas A. Kopp

A Quincy native, Father Kopp graduated from Archbishop Williams High School, Braintree and attended archdiocesan seminaries prior to his ordination to the priesthood on May 20, 1972 by Archbishop Humberto Medeiros at Holy Cross Cathedral.

Following ordination he was named associate at St. Michael Parish in Hudson and just 18 months later he was named an associate at St. Clement Parish in Somerville. Both parishes were similar in demographic and size, at the time each had a parish grammar and high school.

Father Kopp very much enjoyed the Somerville parish and speaks fondly and freely of the well-loved pastor, the late Msgr. Peter Hart with whom he served there.

In 1984 he went south to Duxbury where he served with an equally loved pastor, Msgr. William Glynn. Both share an “affection” for golf and were both team in parish on the links.

Cardinal Bernard Law named him pastor of Sacred Heart (French) Parish in Brockton on Aug. 6, 1991. The parish was changing rapidly and in a certain sense maintained a French identity with an impressive influx of Catholic Haitians into the parish.

For the next 11 years he was shepherd of the Brockton parish until Cardinal Law named him pastor of Halifax’s Our Lady of the Lake Parish on Aug. 12, 2002. During his more than five years there, a noticeable growth has taken place in local population and an encouraging increase in Mass attendance.

On Oct. 30, Father Kopp will become the pastor of one of the archdiocese’s oldest parishes, St. James the Greater Parish in Boston as well archdiocesan director of the Pontifical Missionary Societies for the Propagation of the Faith. In both positions he will be filling very large shoes of historic predecessors. Among his predecessors as pastor at St. James was Father James Healey, first chancellor of the archdiocese and later bishop of Portland, Maine; while at Propagation of the Faith Cardinal Cushing and Msgr. Glynn as well as Msgr. Connell certainly call for note.

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