William David O'Brien

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The Most Reverend

William David O'Brien
Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago
See Chicago
Installed April 25, 1934
Term ended February 19, 1962
Ordination July 11, 1903
Consecration April 25, 1934
Personal details
Born (1878-08-03)August 3, 1878
Chicago, Illinois
Died February 19, 1962(1962-02-19) (aged 83)
San Pierre, Indiana
Denomination Roman Catholic Church

William David O'Brien (August 3, 1878 – February 19, 1962) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago from 1934 until his death in 1962, and was named an Archbishop in 1953.

Early life and education[edit]

William O'Brien was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles D. and Alice M. (née O'Hara) O'Brien.[1] He received his early education at Kinzie Grade School and at the Christian Brothers' school at Holy Name Cathedral.[2] In 1899, he became one of the first two graduates of St. Vincent's College (later DePaul University) in Chicago.[2] He then studied for the priesthood at Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.[1] O'Brien was ordained a priest by Archbishop James Edward Quigley on July 11, 1903.[3]


His first assignment was as a curate at St. Basil's Church on 1850 Garfield Boulevard, where he remained for four years.[2] In 1907, he was named assistant to Monsignor Francis Kelley, director of the Catholic Church Extension Society.[4] In addition to his duties with the Extension Society, O'Brien became pastor of St. John's Church on 100 W. 18th Street in 1924.[5] He was named a papal chamberlain in 1924, and raised to the rank of domestic prelate in 1926.[1] He was the first priest to receive papal honors from the archdiocese's first cardinal, George Mundelein.[4] He became president of the Extension Society in 1925, after Monsignor Kelley was appointed Bishop of Oklahoma.[1] As president, he also served as editor of the monthly Extension Magazine.[1]


On February 10, 1934, O'Brien was appointed auxiliary bishop of Chicago and titular bishop of Calynda by Pope Pius XI.[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following April 25 from Cardinal Mundelein, with Bishops Joseph Patrick Lynch and Bernard James Sheil, at Holy Name Cathedral.[3] As an auxiliary bishop, he continued to serve as president of the Extension Society and pastor of St. John's Church, both offices which he held until his death.[2] He was named an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne in 1947.[1] On November 18, 1953, O'Brien was elevated to the rank of Titular Archbishop of Calynda by Pope Pius XII.[3] L'Osservatore Romano reported that his elevation was due to his "tireless work" with the Extension Society.[5] He was the first Catholic bishop in the United States who was not the head of a diocese to be named an archbishop.[5]

O'Brien was unanimously re-elected president of the Extension Society in 1954.[6] In his later years, he relinquished the editorship of the Extension Magazine and delegated many of his administrative duties, but still closely following the society's activities and frequently visiting its headquarters.[2] He died at Little Company of Mary Hospital in San Pierre, Indiana, at age 83.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "W.D. O'BRIEN, PRELATE, 83, DIES; RITES SET". Chicago Tribune. 1962-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Bishop William David O'Brien". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. 
  4. ^ a b c "WILLIAM O'BRIEN, AN ARCHBISHOP, 83; Chicago Prelate Dies—Head of Church Extension Unit". The New York Times. 1962-02-20. 
  5. ^ a b c Evan, John (1953-11-19). "O'BRIEN CHOICE AS ARCHBISHOP UNUSUAL HONOR; Vatican Paper Points to 'Tireless Work'". Chicago Tribune. 
  6. ^ "ARCHBISHOP RE-ELECTED; O'Brien Again Heads Catholic Church Extension Society". The New York Times. 1954-11-23.