Rockford-area faithful lay to rest beloved Bishop O'Neill - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford-area faithful lay to rest beloved Bishop O'Neill

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Bishop Malloy speaks about Bishop O'Neill's life. Bishop Malloy speaks about Bishop O'Neill's life.
Bishop Doran (left), former head of the Rockford Diocese, attends Bishop O'Neill's funeral. Bishop Doran (left), former head of the Rockford Diocese, attends Bishop O'Neill's funeral.
Bishop Arthur O'Neill Bishop Arthur O'Neill
ROCKFORD (WREX) -

Family, friends and parishioners say goodbye to a bishop they considered much more than just a priest. Bishop Arthur O'Neill was laid to rest Friday morning at the Cathedral of St. Peter's in Rockford.

It's hard to think of making jokes at a funeral, especially the funeral for the former head of the Rockford Catholic Diocese.

But loved ones say Bishop O'Neill's humor was just part of who he was.

"I said Bishop how you doing. 'Not bad for an old guy,'" says Bishop David Malloy, Catholic Diocese of Rockford.

O'Neill was 95 years-old when he passed away Saturday, April 27. He had spent more than 70 years in the priesthood. But Malloy says he never stopped caring about the church. He was even asking about it last week when Malloy went to visit him.

"The bishop remained very interested in what was clearly his beloved diocese. Always asking questions, trying to follow what was going on even in his last days," says Malloy.

Though O'Neill spent 26 years as the leader of the diocese, for a group of people, they love and remember him as their priest in Freeport at St. Thomas Aquinas. 

"He married my husband and I, who is now deceased. He baptized all 5 of our children. He's definitely a people's priest," says Carol Richter.

"He was a truly, truly, compassionate wonderful person," says Tim Brenna.

Most people had a personal story about O'Neill including Jim Jacobs. He grew up next to the rectory and served as an alter boy for then Father O'Neill. He says as he got older O'Neill and him became close friends. He had to fight back tears trying to describe the man O'Neill was.

"He was a buddy of mine. He was a good guy," says Jacobs.

Eight bishops from three states attended the funeral along with more than 100 active and retired priests, dozens of deacons and hundreds of parishioners.

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