The Reverend James R. O’Brien, age 81, passed away on Friday, February 11, 2022 at his residence at St. Anne’s Retirement Community in Columbia, Pa. Born April 11, 1940 in New Oxford, he was the son of the late Thomas David and Gertrude Lucy (Horwedal) O’Brien.
Father O’Brien received his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy from St. Vincent College and went on to earn both a Masters of Divinity from St. Vincent Seminary and a Masters in Education from Millersville University as well as a Principal’s Certificate from Penn State University. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 30, 1966 at Saint Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg.
His first assignment was as Assistant Pastor at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Mechanicsburg from 1966 to 1967. He went on to serve as Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Lancaster from 1967 to 1970. He served as Assistant Principal of Lancaster Catholic High School from 1970 to 1971; Principal of Lebanon Catholic High School from 1971 to 1976; Principal of Lourdes High School in Shamokin while simultaneously serving Saint John the Baptist Church in Mt. Carmel as its Pastor from 1976 to 1979; and Principal of Bishop McDevitt High School from 1979 to 1986. He was appointed in 1988 to be the Pastor of a new parish, Saint Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, in Mechanicsburg, by Bishop William H. Keeler and held the first Mass for the new parish in the Silver Spring Fire Hall. Mass was first celebrated in the new church in May of 1991 and this Mass was also to celebrate First Holy Communion for the parish children. He served as Pastor for 14 years – until 2002 – at which time he went on to serve his final assignment, Pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Chambersburg, until his retirement in 2014.
Father O’Brien was preceded in death by three brothers: Thomas, Gerald, and Donald O’Brien. Surviving are his sisters, Sister Alma O’Brien of Columbia, Pa.; Lorraine Gallagher of Ellicott City, Md.; and Mary Hilgenberg of Syracuse, N.Y.; his brother, Eugene P. O’Brien of Cincinnati, OH; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Mass of Transferral will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, February 18 at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, 1 Peter Drive, Mechanicsburg. There will be a viewing preceding the Mass, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, February 19 at St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, 1 Peter Drive, Mechanicsburg with Bishop Ronald W. Gainer as celebrant. Burial will follow in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Mechanicsburg. There will be a viewing prior to Mass, from 9:30 to 11 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to benefit Parkinson Disease research at www.apdaparkinson.org.
To sign the online guest book, please visit www.malpezzifuneralhome.com.