Rev. Thomas J. O’Hara, C.S.C., was elected as the new Provincial Superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross, United States Province of Priests and Brothers by the Provincial Chapter on Friday, June 15 (Feast Day of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus). The Congregation of Holy Cross has guided the University of Portland since its founding in 1901.
Fr. O’Hara is the first elected Provincial of the newly merged United States Province. The Eastern Province merged into the Indiana Province forming the United States Province of Priests and Brothers, which became effective on July 1, 2011.
“I am both honored and humbled to be chosen to serve my fellow Holy Cross religious as Provincial of the United States Province of Priests and Brothers as we strive to serve the people of God,” said Fr. O’Hara after Friday’s election.
As Provincial Superior, Fr. O’Hara will oversee the work and welfare of more than 500 priests, brothers and seminarians in the U.S. Province. He succeeds Rev. David T. Tyson, who served as Provincial Superior for 9 years.
The U.S. Province carries out the vision of founder Blessed Basil Moreau to make God known, loved and served through four institutions of higher education and 13 parishes in the United States. In addition, the Province has apostolates and missions in East Africa, Chile, Peru, and Mexico.
The Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross give the Provincial Superior authority over all members and houses in the Province. He is elected by at least two-thirds vote of the Chapter and confirmed by the Congregation’s Superior General in Rome, Rev. Richard Warner. The term of the Provincial Superior is six years, but he may be elected to a consecutive term of three years.
Fr. O’Hara was born on March 16, 1949, in Hazleton, Pa. He attended Moreau Seminary, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, from 1973 to 1975. He professed First Vows on Aug. 3, 1974 and Final Vows on Sept. 3, 1977. He was ordained to the deaconate on Jan. 15, 1978, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1978.
A 1971 graduate of King’s College with a bachelor’s in political science, Fr. O’Hara received his master’s in theology from the Notre Dame in 1977 and his doctorate in political science from The American University in Washington, D.C., in 1988.
Fr. O’Hara’s first teaching assignment in 1975 was as professor of English at Notre Dame College in Dacca, Bangladesh, where he was assisting in relief work with Mother Theresa’s Missionary Sisters of Charity. He has worked in parish ministry in Brooklyn, N.Y., and served in the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh and Uganda.
He was a Resident Assistant at Notre Dame from 1976 to 1977; Associate Pastor at our Lady of Good Counsel from 1977 to 1982; Chaplain at Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Spring, Md.; and Chaplain to the Holy Cross brothers at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Md., from 1982 to 1984, where he served on the high school’s board of directors. He was an Adjunct Professor teaching a religion and politics course at The American University (1987) and a Priest-in-residence at St. Ann Parish, Washington, D.C., from 1984 to 1988.
Fr. O’Hara joined the faculty of King’s in 1988 as Assistant Professor of government and politics and became the eighth President of his alma mater in 1999. He was the first King’s alumnus to be named President, as well as its second-longest serving President. He left the post in 2011 and has been on sabbatical for the past year.
He also served as Professor of political science at the Philosophical Centre of Jinja in Uganda from 1994 until he returned to King’s in 1996 as a professor and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Among his many awards, Fr. O’Hara was presented an honorary degree by The University of Scranton (Pa.) in 2008 and the University of Portland (Ore.) in 2012. He also was awarded the Exemplar Award from the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association, the New York State Award for Dedication to Youth (1982) and the King’s College All College Award for Faculty (1992) and Administrators (1998).
Fr. O’Hara continues to serve on Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, as well as that of St. Edward’s University. He has served on the boards of a number of education, religious and non-profit organizations throughout his career.