Msgr. Kevin O'Neill, a Champion of Catholic Education, Retires...Again
A Mass of celebration in honor of Msgr. Kevin O'Neill was held in Queen of Martyrs Church in Cheektowaga on May 28. Msgr. O'Neill will retire from his role as Canonical Administrator at Mary Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School in Cheektowaga after nine years in that role. His retirement will be the culmination of nearly 50 years of service to Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
Msgr. O'Neill was ordained in 1961 and spent 23 years as pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in East Aurora. In addition to his priestly duties, Msgr. O'Neill taught religion, coached basketball, held retreats and for decades took eighth grade students on class trips out of town to make their graduation special. In an interview in the WNY Catholic newspaper, Msgr. O'Neill said "I've probably been in charge of Catholic grade schools for 48 of my 54 years."
"I still keep in touch with many of my kids," Msgr. O'Neill says "Some come to see me. Some are almost retired; it's been that many years."
The ultimate proof of Msgr O'Neill's dedication to our Catholic schools came in 2005 when he retired from Immaculate Conception School and could have walked quietly into the sunset. In the article with the WNY Catholic, Msgr. O'Neill reminisces, "Bishop (Edward U.) Kmiec called and asked me if I would take Mary Queen of Angels. That was supposed to be for a year, and nine years later, I'm still doing it."
This past January, Msgr. O'Neill received the Diocese of Buffalo's Outstanding Achievement Award at the Gala 22:6, the annual celebration of Catholic education held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. Mary Alice Bagwell, principal at Mary Queen of Angels, commented on Msgr. O'Neill's support of the school by saying "I think his award is so well deserved because of his commitment to Catholic education. In today's age, when schools are closing it is wonderful to have a priest who is so interested in keeping Catholic schools open and viable."
"It has been a privilege for all of us at Mary Queen of Angels School to work with someone so dedicated to Catholic education," said Principal Bagwell. "Frankly, I don't know where we would be right now without Msgr. Kevin's support and guidance. Moving forward, we will especially miss his celebration of our special Masses, his leadership in our community fundraising efforts, his participation at our school board meetings and his spiritual guidance."
Thanks to Kimberlee Sabshin and Joe Kirchmyer for their contributions to this article.