Faith and Family: The Rev. David O’Connor is 2019 Seton Award honoree

Published 12:15 am Friday, May 24, 2019


NATCHEZ — St. Mary Basilica pastor the Rev. David O’Connor is the 2019 recipient of the prestigious Seton Award for his service to Cathedral School in Natchez.

The award was presented to O’Connor on Monday evening and he said he was surprised by the honor.

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“So it was a very happy moment for me and while I have never been (on staff at the school), I mostly do what I do by being there and being supportive and being available when there is an issue and that kind of thing,” O’Connor said of his contribution to Cathedral School. “It has been a very happy relationship and the award took me by surprise.”

O’Connor recently announced he will retired as pastor of St. Mary Basilica on June 30.

The Seton Award recognizes a lifetime achievement in service to the mission of Cathedral School and Catholic Education.

O’Connor said Cathedral School is an important part of the Natchez community.

“I guess it is the longest serving school, about 175 years or maybe a little more,” O’Connor said of Cathedral School’s role in the community. “Originally it came about as the way the church reached into the community by touching families and providing education for them.”

Since those beginnings the school has added more and more lay people to the staff, O’Connor said and today the staff is mostly lay people. However, O’Connor said several staff members hold master’s degrees in theology and the school offers theology courses.

“I see the school not only as an arm of the church but also as a servant to the wider community as well,” O’Connor said. “Probably about one-third of the students nowadays are Roman catholic, and I think we serve the community through making the school available at a reasonable cost, the tuition, and it is a good quality program.”

O’Connor said his contribution to the school has been visible and supportive.

“My contribution was in the form of being a spiritual leader,” O’Connor said, “leading some of the prayer services and church celebrations for the school, and I would be there many times at lunch and have a chance to speak with the students as well as interacting with the teachers. It was probably a ministry of great visibility and great presence there. I attended all the ball games, certainly all the football games.”

The purpose of the Seton Award is to provide Cathedral a means to honor individuals “to recognize the tireless efforts in service of the mission of Catholic Education in Natchez, Mississippi,” reads the plaque first awarded in 1993. “The honor should be given to a person who has consistently volunteered in support of Cathedral School and its mission for at least five years. Former school employees may be honored if they have not been on salary at the school during that period and have continued to volunteer and support the school since leaving employment. The Seton Award may also recognize other significant contributions to the goals of Cathedral School.”

O’Connor’s name will be added to a plaque located in the foyer of Cathedral High School listing all the recipients: 1993 The Daughters of Charity; Mrs. Betty Lou Hicks; Rev. Alfred Camp; Msgr. Thomas Fullam; Mrs. Cheryl Callon; Mrs. Gloria Tuccio; Mrs. Mary Agnes Frye; Mr. John “Sonny” Sanguinetti; 1994 Michael M. Shumway; 1995 Mimi Maier; Joe Eidt III; 2001 Cathy Cook; 2002 Scott Fleming; 2005 Allen Richard; No recipients from 2006-2018.

“The Seton Award may be given annually if the Selection Committee feels there is/are qualified candidate/candidates,” organizers said. “More than one award may be given annually, or none given. The Selection Committee is made up of three-five individuals, at least one each from the following: Development Committee, School Advisory Council, Elementary and Secondary Administration. Any member of the school community may nominate a candidate in writing, listing the nominee’s contribution to the school, giving some examples of specific projects, area of service, length of service, etc.  This Seton Award is the highest honor bestowed by the school to a supporter.”