Thomas Joseph Connolly

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Thomas Joseph Connolly (July 18, 1922 – April 24, 2015)[1] was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Baker in Oregon from 1971 to 1999.


Connolly was born in Tonopah, Nevada, to John and Katherine (née Hammel) Connolly. He completed his studies for the priesthood in California, first at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Mountain View and then at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park.[2] He was ordained for the Diocese of Reno by Bishop Thomas Kiely Gorman on April 8, 1947.[3] His first assignments were as a curate at the Cathedral of St. Thomas and at Little Flower Church, while teaching at Bishop Manogue High School and serving as chaplain to the Serra Club.[4]

He was private secretary to Gorman from 1948 until 1949, when he was sent to study canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.[4] He earned a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1951, and a doctorate from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome the following year.[4] Following his return to the Diocese of Reno, Connolly became an assistant rector at the Cathedral of St. Thomas. After serving at St. Joseph Church in Elko and Albert the Great Church in Reno, he was pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Church in Carson City from 1968 to 1971.[4]

On May 4, 1971 Connolly was appointed the Bishop of Baker, Oregon, by Pope Paul VI.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following June 30 from Archbishop Robert Joseph Dwyer, with Gorman and Michael Joseph Green serving as co-consecrators.[3] In accord with the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Connolly established a priests' council, an annual presbyteral assembly, a sisters' council, and a diocesan pastoral council with lay participation.[2] He oversaw a large-scale renovation of the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in the early 1980s.[2] He also scheduled regular Masses in Spanish, established a program to assist undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, and ordained the first class of permanent deacons for the diocese.[2]

Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, Connolly submitted his letter of resignation to Pope John Paul II in July 1997. His resignation was accepted on November 19, 1999, and Reverend Robert F. Vasa of the Diocese of Lincoln was named as his successor.[3] Connolly died in April 2015, at the age of 92.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francis Peter Leipzig
Bishop of Baker
Succeeded by
Robert F. Vasa