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Rev. Msgr. William O. O'Neill

Deceased: 2021-10-29


ICTE Fall: 2002

After over 54 years of priestly service, Reverend Monsignor William Oliver O’Neill, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah, passed away in Ireland on Friday, October 29, 2021 following a brief illness.

Msgr. O’Neill was born to the late John and Bridget O’Neill on July 21, 1942 and baptized at St. Michael’s Church on July 30, 1942 in Tipperary Town, Ireland.

He is predeceased by his parents and his brothers PJ, Michael, and Owen Roe, and survived by his sister Nuala McGrath (Artie) of County Limerick, Ireland. He will be sadly missed by his sister-in-law; nephews John (Mary), Michael (Moira), Michael John, and Tony (Stephanie); great-niece and great-nephews; cousins; Bishop Stephen D. Parkes; Bishop Emeritus J. Kevin Boland; brother priests in the Diocese of Savannah; parishioners and former parishioners; and many, many friends in Ireland and America. The family would like to thank his wonderful physicians in Savannah and the caring staff at Mallow General Hospital, County Cork, who were with him at the end.

O’Neill was educated at Ayle National School and Christian Brothers Primary in Tipperary, Ireland and St. Peter’s College in Wexford, Ireland. He was a student at Columbus State in Columbus, Georgia from 1976–1978, with a concentration in U.S. history, political science and criminal justice. He also studied at the North American College in Rome in 2002 and 2014.

He attended St. Peter’s Seminary in Wexford, Ireland from 1961–1967 and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Savannah on June 4, 1967 by the Most Reverend Donal J. Herlihy, Bishop of Ferns, Ireland. He left Ireland for America on August 25, 1967 and arrived in Savannah (via New York City) on September 1, 1967.

Following a six month Pastoral Training Program in New Orleans with his fellow Irish priests, his first assignment in the Diocese was Assistant Pastor at St. Mary on the Hill Church, Augusta in February 1968. While at St. Mary he expressed to his Bishop a desire to serve as a missionary and was subsequently appointed Assistant Pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Augusta, an African-American parish staffed by priests of the Society of African Missions. He served there from August 1968 to July 1971, then continued his service in Augusta as Associate Pastor at Most Holy Trinity Church until June 1975.

He was appointed Pastor of Holy Family Church in Columbus in June 1975 and served there for 13 years, overseeing the restoration of the church building in 1977. On August 25, 1988, 21 years after arriving in America, he was appointed Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Savannah, serving until August 1996 when he was appointed Rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah. As Rector, he oversaw the extensive 1999–2000 Cathedral Restoration Project and was subsequently appointed a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) by Pope John Paul II in recognition of this work. He remained in residence at the Cathedral following his retirement in June 2013, dividing his time between Savannah and Ireland.

He faithfully served in a number of capacities throughout the Diocese of Savannah, including Vicar General and Vicar Forane of the Savannah Deanery. He also held positions on the College of Consultors, Presbyteral Council, Clergy Welfare Committee and the Carmelite Monastery Advisory Board. He was appointed Diocesan Coordinator of the Roman Liturgy following Pope Benedict’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in 2007, and was instrumental in establishing the celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Savannah.

He was the author of two memoirs: Stories from Ireland and America (2020) and More Irish and American Stories (2021).

A Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 11:30 a.m. (GMT) (7:30 a.m. EDT) at St. Nicholas Church in Solohead, County Tipperary, Ireland. Burial will be on the church grounds. The Requiem Mass will be livestreamed: for more information, please see the Diocesan website at

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Savannah on Friday, December 3, 2021 at 11 a.m. (EST) (4 p.m. GMT). This Mass will be livestreamed at and

The family requests that messages of condolence be sent through the website at (search O’Neill, County Tipperary). In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Cathedral’s Chapel Renovation Project at