The recently retired leader of a faith-based nonprofit agency said he didn't expect to be with the organization for a long time.
But after 28 years, Tim O'Connor chuckled as he thought about his initial assumptions about leading Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City.
“I thought I would be here for a few years, then I'd move on,” he said.
O'Connor, 65, said instead of leaving he “grew into the position” and realized there was no place else he would rather be.
“After I was here for a few years, I thought ‘what would I do and where would I go if not here?'” he said.
O'Connor came to Oklahoma in 1971 after having worked for the state of Wyoming for seven years in the area of mental health.
He said he worked for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health for four years before joining Catholic Charities in 1985.
The nonprofit was small at the time, he said, but the need was great. O'Connor quickly realized that social services agencies like Catholic Charities help improve the quality of life in the community and are as vital to the metro area as large corporations.
The longtime agency leader said he always considered his work at Catholic Charities as a type of ministry, a way to fulfill the mission of Catholic social teaching. He said several aspects of his career stand out in his mind.
He said he is grateful for the agency's many volunteers who worked alongside staff members over the years to help those in need.
“Each person has a responsibility. We are all connected,” O'Connor said. “That's what Catholic Charities is all about. It says this work belongs to the people.”
The unity shown by faith community and faith-based organizations in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing also is a highlight he will remember.
“It was one moment in history that we saw our city in a different light. We saw what our city could be if we all worked together. Oklahoma City is a stronger community for all of that,” he said.
He has been blessed most of all, he said, by what others — those who came to the agency for aid — have shared with him.
“Many of them have shared their faith in such a way that it has confirmed the good that I believe,” he said.
O'Connor, who has been married to wife Margaret for 40 years, said as a new retiree he planned to spend some time deciding how he could best be of service to the community. He said he has been so blessed that he wants to continue to serve in some way.
“I'm going to take some time to reflect and decompress and figure out how to use what I've learned to help others,” he said.
“I've been so blessed by the relationships and support that surrounded me at Catholic Charities that anything I can give back to the community — I want to do that.”