Father O’Connell honored at Trinity Sober Homes banquet

| September 25, 2015 | 0 Comments
Father Michael O'Connell, left, poses with Father John Malone, his long-time friend, after the Trinity Sober Homes fall banquet Sept. 24. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father Michael O’Connell, left, poses with Father John Malone, his long-time friend, after the Trinity Sober Homes fall banquet Sept. 24. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Three priests were key figures in the annual Trinity Sober Homes fall banquet Sept. 24 at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis. First, there was a retired priest, Father Martin Fleming, founder of Trinity Sober Homes, who sang for the opening prayer.

Next was Father John Malone, longtime pastor of Assumption in downtown St. Paul, who was the keynote speaker. Finally, there was Father Malone’s longtime friend, Father Michael O’Connell, who received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.

For much of the evening, it was hard to tell if it was a tribute to Father O’Connell or a mutual roast between Father O’Connell and Father Malone. Both took light-hearted jabs at one another in their respective speeches, but Father O’Connell eventually turned serious when he talked about homelessness and how it affects men coming out of alcohol and chemical dependency treatment.

Around 50 percent of the men who come out of treatment centers every month have no place to go, said Tim Murray of Trinity Sober Homes. And, Father O’Connell gave an impassioned plea for people to help these men by generously supporting the mission of Trinity Sober Homes. He added an exclamation near the end when he talked about how his own parents had to sell their home in St. Paul while he was studying at the St. Paul Seminary and move out of state to find something more affordable.

He still remembers one of his siblings telling him later that another sibling remarked as the family drove off in their Desoto automobile, “I’ll miss this house.”

One of the men who has lived in the three homes that have been renovated to help men over 40 in recovery who need a place to live spoke about his experience and how Trinity Sober Homes gave him a much-needed fresh start after he completed his treatment program.

One of the trademarks of the three homes, all named after archangels, is that they are “unabashedly Catholic,” Murray said. This simply means that there are Catholic symbols throughout each home, and priests say Masses at the homes regularly and offer spiritual direction for the men, whether or not they’re Catholic.

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