Clem Connolly talked about being empowered, enriched, enlightened and the importance of “holding a conviction” in urging others to show a passion for kindness, caring and forgiving among topics addressed during a moving 25-minute message Tuesday morning at the 5th annual Prayer Breakfast in Gray Hall at Oneonta Congregational Church.
A monsignor at Holy Family Church, Connolly talked about “blessing others, lifting someone up when they are down, giving a person life” as part of his well-received speech entitled “Civil Discourse, Why Our Words Matter” that prompted a loud ovation at its conclusion.
“People of Holy Family know that with some measure of truth, I’m inclined to divide people into two kinds,” he explained. “The first, when you’re around this person for awhile and they leave, you say: ‘Thank God I survived.’ “They’re whining, they’re moaning, nothing is okay, everything is wrong.”
A roar of laughter carried throughout the room following his remarks.
The other kind of person? “When you’re around them, you feel better,” he continued. “They give you energy, they give you hope. You have some gift to carry away from the encounter – that’s authentic religion.”
Connolly stressed, “We live in a very fractured world right now. The work has become coarse. It’s diminished. The public wellness has been offended somehow. There’s a severe division, a sense of polarization.”
The call of the prayer breakfast, he said, is to be unifiers rather than those who divide. “The transformation must begin with ourselves,” Connolly explained. “We’re not empowered to be a transforming influence for anyone else unless ourselves have first been transformed. So that must be the genesis of our conversation, speaking about a contribution we can make toward transforming our culture.”
What’s missing, insisted Connolly, is the richness and the gift of dialogue, the monsignor saying he’d like to see a transformation of society move toward a better place. “The genesis of our conflict in our culture has to do with the absence of dialogue,” he said. “We have been misled with an understanding that if we dialogue we would resolve our differences. Dialogue is not meant to resolve differences. Dialogue is meant to allow differences. And if we’re truly in dialogue with one another we are respectful, we honor the dignity of another person’s opinion. We can see the value in the contradiction of our own value of our own certainty. That’s dialogue.”
Whatever is someone’s persuasion, whatever someone’s belief. “If you walk in the presence of God, you are a prayer,” Connolly told the audience. “You walk with integrity, you walk in truth, you walk with generosity.”
The frame of reference, noted Connolly, has to do with the religious experience. “Prayer is not something you do, it’s not something you achieve. Prayer is something you allow. Prayer happens when we live in the presence of God.”
The prayer breakfast acknowledges “the power that our words have in shaping us as individuals as well as society,” added Connolly.
“And our mission, as people … will be to take the revelation given to us and transform ourselves first,” he noted. “We cannot be instruments for transformation in a church or in a society unless ourselves are first transformed. Whether it’s the church…or the home, the cog to enrich a culture has to begin with transformation within myself.”
The world will be much better off, insisted Connolly, “If we include people who are different. Embrace people who don’t fit. Welcome people who don’t feel they don’t belong. And if by some miracle we could do that in our culture in this great land we could transform something that is violent, coarse, demeaning into something that is rich, full of hope and possibility.”
He concluded, “We could pass on a world and culture to the next generation where someday upon reflection they would look back and say, ‘Thanks be to God for the generation that went before me.’”
About Clem Connolly
Connolly, who enjoys golf, reading and travel, is the middle child in a family of two boys and three girls, was born and raised in Limerick, Ireland and later in England.
After attending Seminary, he graduated from St. Patrick’s College in Thules, Ireland. Ordained to the priesthood in 1964, he missioned to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and serviced in parish ministry for four years. From 1968 through 1970, Connolly received the high honor of serving as secretary for Cardinal Francis McIntyre.
Connolly subsequently was assigned as secretary to Cardinal to Timothy Manning, who retired in 1985. From 1984 to 2009, Connolly made a strong impact on the South Pasadena community when he serviced as pastor of Holy Family. He retired a year later and currently is the spiritual director at the church.
Remembering Shaw and Abbey
Along with Connolly’s keynote speech, prayer breakfast emcee Nancy Norris carried the event, which included a presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance by the Boy Scouts Troop 333, welcoming remarks by South Pasadena Mayor Robert Joe, music from Aubrey Lin accompanied by the South Pasadena High School Choir, a thank you to sponsors, and prayers for the community from local clergy.
“I am so grateful to be surrounded by fellow community members,” Joe told the gathering, noting that the breakfast “gives us a moment to pause together and connect neighbor to neighbor.”
He respectively recognized local businessman Ted Shaw and Paul Abbey, a longtime volunteer in the community, who both recently passed away.
“As many of you know, Ted was a founding member of the prayer breakfast,” said Joe. “He was a visionary in seeing how this event would have the ability to bring together our close-knit community.”
Shaw was remembered “as a loving family man, an accomplished businessman and an engaged community leader, and he will be forever known as Mr. South Pasadena thanks to his decades of dedication to the city and its residents,” Joe Continued. “He was instrumental in the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the Fourth of July Festival of Balloons and fundraising efforts for the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses. Ted will be greatly missed.”
The mayor mentioned that services honoring Shaw will be held at noon on Monday, February 24, at Holy Family Catholic Church, 1527 Fremont Ave., in South Pasadena.
Following the liturgy, a celebration of Shaw’s life will be held starting at approximately 1:30 p.m. at Annandale Golf Club, 1 North San Rafael Avenue in Pasadena.
Abbey, a longtime community member, noted Joe, “was also very dedicated to the city and generously gave to the South Pasadena Prayer Breakfast. In addition to donating his time to the South Pasadena Prayer Breakfast, he was also a committed member of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee – serving in various leadership roles during his two decades of volunteering. His work on the Tournament of Roses committee undoubtedly enhanced the city’s image.”
Shaw and Abbey were a team, helping make South Pasadena a better place.
“Paul and Ted truly embodied the spirit of this great city,” said Joe. “Their contributions to our community will have a lasting impact, and they will be greatly missed.”
Connolly also paid his respects to Shaw, adding: “with profound and enduring gratitude the presence of Ted Shaw. He was a remembered and honored in many venues, none less than the community of Holy Family”
The prayer breakfast wad funded through private donations, local individuals and organizations including Shaw, Moses, Mendenhall & Associates Insurance Agency, which was started by the late Ted Shaw; Michele Downing/Compass Reality, the Primuth family, Athens, Holy Family Catholic Church, Norris Realty Advisors, Oneonta Congregational Church, Moms in Prayer, ReNew United Methodist Church, Sensorygen, SmileHaus Orthodontics, St. James Episcopal Church and Priority One Credit Union.
Prayer Breakfast Committee
Putting the event together were committee members Chair Rev. Lincoln Skinner, Vice Chair Frank Ponnet, Treasurer Tom Stone, Clerk Nancy Norris, Laurie Astle, Robert Joe, Rev. Sam Park, Jon Primuth and Cambrie Tortorelli.
Joe, the city’s mayor, left some in the crowd pondering the question when he asked, “What is the hardest math problem you remember? Was it calculus, algebra, trigonometry?”
None of the above was the correct answer.
“The hardest math problem is remembering to count your blessings,” he said.
Many did, walking out when the spiritual event was all over.