I want to direct my remarks to the young men of BC High. Many of you may not have had the chance to get to know Father O’Neil. Father was a fixture here at BC High as a math teacher and then as a tutor in the library. Father spoke about his career in an article celebrating his 90th birthday. He said, “I enjoyed the teaching very much, and I also had some honors sections. They were marvelous,” he said. “The boys who came to BC High were so brilliant, and they still are.” Father made the transition from the classroom to tutoring in 1992, and he had been working in the library daily until this past December at the age of 96. Father Jim went on to say, “For me, it was just right, thanks to Joe Bennett,” referring to his tutoring center colleague of many years. “He’s the one who made it possible for me.” When asked about Fr. O’Neil, Fr. Bennett said, “I don’t think I have met a person who has been so continuously kind and patient. Fr. O’Neil treats everyone with equal fairness and love.”
Reflecting on his time at BC High and his life as a Jesuit, Fr. O’Neil had no regrets. He said: “You know how at times you can get feeling down, and the Holy Spirit can pick you up and keep you going. Well, I would say that I’ve been very fortunate and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
Today, we remember a man who gave his life to educating young men, ministering to his parishioners, the Society of Jesus and his God. He lived a simple life of humility and kindness and loved and respected every person he encountered. Fr. Jim O’Neil was a true man for others and will be missed by all who had the grace of an encounter.
And so, we pray to St. Ignatius in remembrance of Father’s life and vocation with a prayer that was part of Jim’s vocation.
St. Ignatius of Loyola Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God, Teach me true generosity. Teach me to serve you as you deserve. To give without counting the cost, To fight heedless of wounds, To labor without seeking rest, To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward Save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen.