Fr. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J. dies: He blessed Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep with 50 years of service

Fr. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J. dies: He blessed Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep with 50 years of service

Image: Fr O'Neil It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Fr. Larry O'Neil this morning at St. Vincent's Medical Center.  For 50 years Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep have been blessed with his warm Irish humor, selfless devotion to the Jesuit mission, and utmost concern for students. He leaves a legacy of thousands of people whose lives he touched and often changed significantly through his priesthood and the several important positions he held on campus. He will be missed.

Born in Westfield, Mass., and raised in Springfield, Fr. O'Neil followed in the path of three uncles when he entered the Society of Jesus in 1948.  His first teaching assignment as a Jesuit in 1955 was at Fairfield Prep where he later said his Jesuit vocation was confirmed.  After three years of teaching at Prep and working as the Assistant Athletic Director, Fr. O'Neil left for five years of Jesuit studies, returning to Prep as Dean of Students.  After earning a master's degree in Adolescent Psychology from Fairfield University, he was asked to establish a formal guidance program at Fairfield Prep.

In 1972 Fr. O'Neil was appointed Director of Career Counseling at Fairfield University where over a span of 15 years, he encouraged, promoted, and guided thousands of students as they made the transition from the University into careers and lives of service.  Many alumni kept in touch with him over the years, grateful for the impact he had on them.

A one-year assignment in 1986 as Dean of Students, turned into seven, followed in 1993 with his appointment as International Student Adviser.

In 1992, Fr. O'Neil's sister, Eileen Stanley, and her husband, John, established the Rev. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J. Scholarship to help students with financial need.  It was especially gratifying to Fr. O'Neil who so often had expressed his concern for students who struggle financially.

Fairfield University and the Alumni Association honored Fr. O'Neil in 2005 with the Alumni Service Award; the Office of Human Resources presented him in 2004 with the "Choice Award." He was named to the Fairfield Prep Hall of Fame in 1981.

Over the years, Fr. O'Neil worked in many parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

At the time of his death he served as chaplain to the alumni and to the athletic teams.  As chaplain to alumni, he performed their weddings and baptized their children; he visited alumni when they were ill and attended countless wakes and funerals to offer comfort to the bereaved.  He was particularly effective in his position as chaplain to student athletes, and came to be well-loved by players, coaches, and the Athletic Department staff.  His office on the second floor of the Walsh Athletic Building was much frequented by those who sought his advice and counsel.  It should be a great consolation to all who mourn his loss that he found this last service that he was able to offer to his beloved Fairfield in many ways the most fulfilling and personally satisfying of his long career here.

Rev. Jeffrey von Arx, S.J.


Wake and funeral arrangements for Fr. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J.:

Wake: Thursday, October 22, 2009, from 3:00 - 9:00 pm, Egan Chapel, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.

Funeral: Friday, October 23, 2009, 9:30 am., Egan Chapel, Fairfield University, Fairfield , CT.

Short public viewing at Campion Center, Weston, MA at 3:00 pm., followed by burial at 3:45 pm in the Jesuit Cemetery at Campion Center, 319 Concord Rd., Weston, MA.

Funeral Arrangements through Lesko & Polke Funeral Home:

For individuals who wish to make a gift to the University in Fr. O'Neill's memory, they may do so by giving to the Rev. W. Laurence O'Neill Scholarship Fund at Fairfield University c/o 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.

Obituary of Fr. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J.

The Reverend W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J., a member for nearly 50 years of the Fairfield Jesuit Community at Fairfield University and Fairfield Prep, died peacefully at St. Vincent's Medical Center, in Bridgeport, on Monday, October 19, 2009, at the age of 79, after a short illness.

Father O'Neil was born in Westfield, MA, on July 4, 1930, the son of the late William L. and Mary (Murphy) O'Neil. After graduating from Cathedral High School, in Springfield, MA, he entered the Society of Jesus at Shadowbrook, Lenox, MA, on July 30, 1948. Following the Jesuit course of studies and formation, he received academic degrees from Boston College and Fairfield University. Fr. O'Neil was ordained a priest by Richard Cardinal Cushing at Weston College (MA) on June 17, 1961.

As a seminarian, Fr. O'Neil taught at Fairfield Prep from 1955 to 1958, and returned there as a priest from 1963 to 1971. After a sabbatical, he served in various capacities at Fairfield from 1972 to the present, most recently as chaplain for the school's sports teams. He was a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Officers and the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors. He was a member of the Fairfield Prep Hall of Fame, and was honored to have the Fairfield University Yearbook dedicated to him in 1982. He was the Fairfield University Employee of the Year in 2003-2004, and a member of the Board of Directors of St. Thomas More School, in Oakdale, CT, for several years. For many years, Fr. O'Neil assisted at area parishes on weekends, most recently at St. Anthony Church in Fairfield.

In addition to his brother Jesuits, Fr. O'Neil is survived by his sisters, Mrs. Glenn (Maureen) Alletson, of Canton, CT; Mrs. John (Eileen) Stanley, of Kingwood, TX; Mrs. John (Kathy) Fitzgerald, of East Longmeadow, MA; and Mrs. Gerard (Jean) Connor, of West Springfield, MA and many nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces.

A wake for Fr. O'Neil will be held on Thursday, October 22, 2009 at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola, Fairfield University, from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, October 23, 2009, at 9:30 am at the Egan Chapel. There will be a public viewing at Campion Center, Weston, MA on Friday, October 23, 2009, at 3:00pm, followed by burial in the Jesuit Cemetery at Weston at 3:45 pm.

Contributions in Fr. O'Neil's memory may be made to the Rev. W. Laurence O'Neil, S.J. Scholarship Fund, for the benefit of students at Fairfield University. The arrangements for these service have been entrusted to the Lesko & Polke Funeral Home, 1209 Post Road, Fairfield, CT.

Posted On: 10-19-2009 10:10 AM

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