Kevin J. Connor, influential diocesan lay leader, dies

Kevin J. Connor, 59, of Haddon Township, a diocesan employee who was widely admired for both his generous spirit and his professional accomplishments, died Thursday, May 27.

A native of Trenton, Mr. Connor, who served as  director of Lay Ministry Formation for the Diocese of Camden, resided in Haddon Township since 1993 with his wife, Linda Wray.

In addition to his work with the diocese, Mr. Connor, a graduate of LaSalle University, was the former CFO of Frankford Hospital, past president of the Health Care Financial Management Association, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.

In 2000, Connor became the director of development at Catholic Charities, writing applications for grants to aid the impoverished and needy in the city.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, he spearheaded the Camden Diocese’s efforts, not only raising money for the relief effort, but starting Project One, and sending volunteers to New Orleans to help rebuild the city. Mr. Connor himself went to Louisiana to help clean out destroyed property so new homes could be built.

In 2008, he was appointed director of the diocese’s Lay Ministry Formation Program, overseeing students taking courses offered by Georgian Court University, Lakewood, N.J.; College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown; Center for Ministry Development; St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; Northeast Hispanic Pastoral Center; Neumann University; and the University of Dayton’s online program.

Sister Roseann Quinn, S.S.J., Diocesan Delegate for Lifelong Faith Formation, said Connor enjoyed the work of guiding those who felt called to parish ministry, saying that it was his “passion, dedication, enthusiasm, and relationship to God” which “made (the program) work.”

“He gave everything to his students,” she said.  “He was such a holy man. His relationship with God was part of his everyday language.”

She added, “I’ve never worked with a finer person in my entire life.”

Kevin Hickey, executive director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Camden, who has known Mr. Connor since 2002, recalled a “gentle, spiritual” man who “was committed to linking (Catholic Charities’) programs to Catholic spirituality and faith.”

Mr. Connor, he said, knew that one should “go at something with zest, energy, and passion…and let God and the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.”

Hickey said that over the past few days, many in Catholic Charities remembered a man who “touched them, in ways big and small.”

In April 2009, Mr. Connor was honored by Catholic Charities at its annual Justice for ALL awards dinner, receiving the Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Award for Leadership.

Mr. Connor was also an active member of Holy Saviour Parish, serving as director of Youth Ministry, and on Parish Council. An avid and life-long fisherman, he was also a second-degree black belt in aikido.

He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Linda; brother John T. Connor, Jr. and sister Terry Higgins (Michael); nephews Michael and Matthew Higgins; and nieces Patricia BeChamps and Sharon Drozdowsky.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Tuesday, June 1, at St. John Church, Collingswood. Interment was in Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.

As Mr. Connor’s vision was to establish a scholarship fund for his youth group, in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Community Foundation of South Jersey, P.O. Box 446, Haddonfield, NJ 08033 (in Memo – Kevin Connor Youth Ministry Scholarship Fund).

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