Date of death: 04/22/2020
Saint Meinrad Class: O 1972
Br. Luke Robert O’Connell, OSB, of St. Paul’s Abbey in Andover Township, N.J., died on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in the Newton Medical Center after suffering for a long time with pancreatic cancer.
Brother Luke was born on Feb. 8, 1946, in Englewood, N.J., as the only child of William and Lillian O’Connell. He grew up in Ridgefield Park. He attended St. Francis of Assisi Parish grammar school and in 1960 entered the Benedictine Mission Seminary High School at St. Paul’s abbey. He completed high school, graduating from St. Meinrad Seminary High School, St. Meinrad, Indiana, in 1964. After a year at Don Bosco Seminary College, he entered St. Paul’s Abbey. He made his first profession on Aug. 19, 1967, and took his solemn vow on June 9, 1972. He marked his golden jubilee of profession with a special ceremony at the abbey in 2017.
Early on, Br. Luke was assigned to the abbey development office known as the Pax Office. He began courses in business at Morris County Community College and then completed a degree in business from Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas. Upon returning to the abbey, he taught business and accounting at Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, N.J., from 1975 to 1980. In 1980 he was named business manager of the abbey, holding that position for 24 years until 2004. In that capacity, he became known to many businesses, agencies and officials in the area.
During the summer he worked at the abbey’s Camp St. Benedict on Stickles Pond Road until it closed in 1978. He was the camp director for the 1975 to 1977 seasons. He served as the abbey’s principal organist for 50 years and from 1980 to 1985 was the organist for the Sunday parish choir of St. Joseph’s Parish in Newton, N.J., remaining on call afterwards for funerals for many years. In 2003, he was awarded a certificate by the National Weather Service for 25 years of recording the weather at the Newton station kept at the abbey since the 1970s and sending it on a monthly basis. This service often required producing records for legal cases.
Br. Luke was a familiar face during the sale of trees at the abbey Christmas tree farm in December. He maintained the abbey’s donor list and processed regular mailings to them. As part of that, he also was the contact person for the abbey’s monk missionaries serving in Tanzania and South Africa, making a special trip to Tanzania in 2000. Br. Luke was one of three American members of St. Paul’s Abbey asked to assist the monks of Waegwan Abbey when they came to live at the monastery in Newton. Quiet, gentle, and caring by nature, he was respected and appreciated by many for his way of handling situations and people. He bore his final illness humbly and without complaint.