O’Connor to lead St. Patrick Day Parade

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When the Rev. David O’Connor reaches for his green suit jacket Monday he’ll be thinking of only one side of the legendary St. Patrick.

“The image I would project is being an evangelist,” O’Connor said. “St. Patrick came to Ireland as a kid and escaped later, then returned to bring Christian faith to Ireland.”

O’Connor — chosen as St. Patrick by the local Krewe of Killarney — admires the strategy the true St. Patrick used to spread the gospel. St. Patrick would approach leaders and chiefs first, exposing them to a life of faith. Then, they could in turn evangelize their followers, O’Connor said.

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O’Connor, the priest at St. Mary Basilica, was born in Limerick, Ireland. He attended college and seminary in Tipperary, Ireland. Then, he volunteered for ministry in Mississippi because he had a cousin in the state.

O’Connor made the move during the Civil Rights Era and has served in the state since then, working in Meridian, Oxford, Greenwood and Bay St. Louis.

He obtained his master’s from Ole Miss and did some work for the state diocese.

He worked in Natchez from 1986 to 1992 and returned in 2003.

Each year the Krewe of Killarney chooses a local man to serve as St. Patrick, preferably someone of Irish descent.

“It’s been a tradition here,” he said. “And I’m certainly very honored to be selected. I am glad to have that level of support among the people.”

His St. Patrick duties — beyond sporting the green jacket — include attending a luncheon in his honor this week, a silent auction Friday night and walking in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

The silent auction — a fundraiser for the Krewe — will be at the Elks Lodge. Money raised will fund scholarships given by the group each year to a student from each local high school. The Krewe also donates to Holy Family Catholic School and Pleasant Acre Day School.

Though the gift of money is important, it’s the gift of faith O’Connor would like to share through his role this year.

“I see faith today as an important anchor point for people’s lives,” he said. “It can be the anchor point from which they can deal with all those pressures of life.”

When O’Connor was a child in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day was more of a religious holiday than a social one. It was considered a high holy day.

But today, in America and Ireland, the traditions are similar — parades and social gatherings, he said.