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Christendom Mourns the Loss of First Chaplain Father Cornelius O’Brien

September 9, 2019

Father Cornelius O’Brien served the Christendom Community as a chaplain for 25 years and was a passionate supporter of the college from its very beginning. He passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 7, 2019, at the age of 87.

Father O’Brien was born in County Cork, Ireland, on January 16, 1932. As a young man he attended St. Patrick Seminary in Carlow, and was ordained a priest in June of 1955. After several years as a priest in Ireland, he moved to the United States and served for 7 years in the Diocese of Alexandria, LA. In 1976, Bishop Thomas Welsh invited Father O’Brien to join the Diocese of Arlington.

In 1977, Father O’Brien became Christendom’s first chaplain. During his 25 years ministering at Christendom on a part-time basis, Father O’Brien was also was assigned as pastor at various parishes in the diocese. Despite his other duties, and the distance between Christendom and the parishes where he was stationed, he regularly came to Christendom to hear confessions and celebrate Sunday Mass, and often stayed overnight to say daily Mass on Mondays.

Father O’Brien celebrating the Graduation Mass in 1986

Father O’Brien supported Christendom College even before its doors opened in 1977. Being a great lover of philosophy, Father O’Brien believed in the college’s mission to teach the Catholic liberal arts. Father O’Brien earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, and his favorite philosopher was St. Thomas Aquinas. Father O’Brien was also a native Gaelic speaker, and had a great appreciation for the poetry and traditions of Ireland.

In 2006, Father O’Brien retired from St. James parish in Falls Church, VA, to return home to County Cork to live with his sister, and to be close to the rest of his family. Father remained there until his death.

Father O’Brien will be remembered by many alumni for his passionate and enriching preaching. He was extremely intelligent and known for his wit. He enjoyed fishing and being in nature, but what he relished most of all was the time he spent studying the truth revealed by Christ.

The Christendom community was incredibly blessed by the support of Father O’Brien, especially during the early years of the college.  Please remember Father O’Brien and his family in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord; and let  perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.