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New 'Burgh mayor's son was popular priest here

Of the 2,000 folks invited to the inauguration of Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor last week, I was not one of them.

That's OK because I only met him once. And not being a Pittsburgh resident, I certainly didn't campaign for his election.

My interest in the O'Connor family peaked a few years ago, when friends sang the praises of an O'Connor son, Terry.

Studying for the priesthood at St. Vincent Seminary, he assisted at Transfiguration Church in Monongahela up until the time of his ordination in 2001.

The popular young man won the hearts of the Transfiguration parishioners, particularly the younger set whom he met with in a program he called "Terry Talks to Teens."

Many from Monongahela attended his ordination by Bishop Donald Wuerl on May 26, 2001, at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland.

He was back at Transfiguration a week later to offer Mass and take part in the reception parishioners had planned for him.

The day was Pentecost Sunday and I was there, along with 500 others, to witness the event. The Knights of Columbus Honor Guard escorted the new priest; a classmate , the Rev. Robert Vular, and the pastor, the Rev. William Feeney, to the altar.

The reception followed in the parish hall. Al Holtz, chairman of the apostolate committee, assisted by Julie Auth and other members, had an outstanding display of foods. There were lots of beautiful seasonal flowers in the room. The variety of cookies, baked by many parishioners, were elegantly displayed.

That was where I met then Pittsburgh Council President Bob O'Connor and his wife, Judy.

Terry's older sister, Heidi Garth, and her family, as well as his younger brother, Cory, also were there.

During an interview, Father Terry told me he had actually completed college and law school and was practicing criminal defense and injury law with a downtown Pittsburgh firm when he said he "felt God in the quiet of my heart" and answered the call.

Born in Squirrel Hill, the son of a Jewish mother and an Irish Catholic father, Terry attended Central Catholic High School and graduated in 1987 - without ever having been baptized.

It was during his sophomore year at Pitt, while giving a tennis lessen, he approached his Central Catholic chaplain and told him that he had never been baptized. Three months later, at the age of 19, he received the sacrament.

Both his parents were supportive of his choice of a vocation. He entered St. Paul Seminary in 1995 and went on to St. Vincent in 1997.

During the televised inauguration of Mayor Bob O'Connor, he said he had attended Mass offered by his son and received communion prior to the noon festivities. Father Terry is serving as a parochial vicar at St. Alphonse Church in Wexford.

Introducing his son on the platform in front of Pittsburgh City Hall, Mayor O'Connor quipped this was an instance when "a father calls his son Father!"

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