LOS ANGELES — If Catherine Contreras had the opportunity to have one more conversation with the late Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, she would thank him for his unwavering support of pro-life advocates and for being a father figure to so many.
“Thank you for your support. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for being [fatherly], being warm, and giving to us so selflessly,” Contreras said she would tell Bishop O’Connell. “We appreciate your dedicated work, and we know the sacrifices that he made for all of us.”
Contreras offered the message on March 1, looking down upon the nation’s largest burial site of aborted babies, which Bishop O’Connell blessed last year. Located in Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Los Angeles, there are almost 16,500 aborted babies found buried there in the 1980s.
Contreras is the president and executive director of Vox Vitae, a Los Angeles-based pro-life advocacy organization. Bishop O’Connell provided the seed money for the organization’s Help and Hope sidewalk advocacy program, but beyond that, she added, he was a steadfast champion of the pro-life cause who always made himself available.
“All I had to do was text or call him and say, ‘Can you help us,’ ” Contreras explained.
“Our bishop made it a point to be available, praying outside of abortion facilities, praying exorcism prayers outside of abortion facilities, and if a mother ever needed help, he was there,” she continued, adding that Bishop O’Connell would often say pro-life advocacy is “the most important work that we need to be doing.”
Other pro-life advocates also say their final message to him would be one of thanks.
Dahlia and Arnold Mayorquin never met Bishop O’Connell, but they said he was integral in their decision last year to follow through with the birth of their baby boy, Joshua, who they were encouraged to abort because he had a very small chance of living. Joshua was born on Feb. 10, 2022, and lived 40 days until March 18, 2022.
“There are no words that we can express for the gratitude that we have for him because we know that his prayers are what most likely helped him live those 40 days,” Dahlia explained. “Our son was pronounced dead in the womb, to them, he wasn’t going to be born alive, and he lasted 40 days. … I’m pretty sure that had something to do with Bishop O’Connell’s prayers.”
The couple said that Bishop O’Connell was key in helping them in other ways, as well, including with things like money, food, and other essential items. Albert said if he could tell Bishop O’Connell one thing, it would be, “Thank you, I appreciate everything.
“I can’t say I had a physical way of meeting him, but probably a mental way through his prayers,” Albert said.
Similarly, Glendy Perez, the 40 Days for Life Coordinator in El Monte, California, would tell Bishop O’Connell, “Thank you for taking the time to be here with us, for the humbleness, for his courage, for his love.” She said Bishop O’Connell visited with them twice.
“When he came to do his special deliverance prayers … we felt the difference,” Perez said. “Even the people that were here were all feeling this tension, and then after he finished with the prayers, we felt this big load get off of our chest. It was such a feeling of peace, courage, and strength. He was so humble, down to earth.”
When asked how Vox Vitae will carry on without Bishop O’Connell, Contreras acknowledged that right now, they’re still heartbroken about the situation but noted that they know they’ll be OK if they continue to rely on their faith.
“He was here in the line of the apostles and the apostles, and our bishops, they’re here because of God. And with God, we’re always going to be OK,” she said. “We’re heartbroken, and we will have to regroup emotionally, but we have God.”
Perez added that she prays there will be another bishop who joins them in their advocacy efforts the way Bishop O’Connell did, saying, “Maybe wherever he is, he can pray for one to come.”