The top portion of the shield is known properly as the chief. On Bishop O’Connell’s shield the chief appears like a bar of blue across the top of a fuller shield below. The charge (emblem) is a combination of the Fleur de Lys for the Blessed Virgin Mary and a pair of angel’s wings on a blue chief; blue being the color reserved for Our Lady and also the color of the Pacific Ocean that forms one of the borders of the church and region. For Bishop O’Connell, the Fleur de Lys is rendered in gold. The wings are silver (which is always rendered as white in heraldry as real silver tarnishes). Gold and silver are the Divine Attributes, perfect and pure in every way.
The shield division is known as a Tierced shield, meaning broken into three fields. It is symbolic of the shape of a gothic chasuble or more so Juan Diego’s tilma, an homage to Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the head of the tilma on a silver field is the simple red rose for Our Lady of Guadalupe. The space of the shield below the silver field is split vertically. On a deep blue field on the left, is found the Agnus Dei, the emblem of Our Lord Jesus Christ as depicted as a Lamb carrying a crossed staff.
On a deep green field on the right side is found a stag, an adult male deer with full antlers which can also be found in the Irish coat of arms for the O’Connell family, to honor the bishop’s parents and forebears and to honor his Irish heritage. The inclusion of the deer also references The Lorica, or the Cry of the Deer, which is an ancient Gaelic prayer attributed to, and named for, Saint Patrick of Ireland. Known more commonly as Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, the heraldic image of this beautiful poem is the Irish deer.
The Motto is found on the banderole (motto ribbon) in five simple yet powerful words: JESUS I TRUST IN YOU. Bishop O’Connell chose as the motto for his episcopal life words from the devotion of The Divine Mercy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, rendered in English, and placed at the foot of the episcopal cross so as to mirror the major homage to the Divine Mercy as found in the cross itself above his shield.
Surmounting the shield is the pilgrim’s hat, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Behind Bishop O’Connell’s coat of arms is found the episcopal cross, worked in gold, and bearing a blood red multifaceted ruby. This special stone has been selected to bring homage to Our Lord under the title and image of the Divine Mercy. The ruby represents the generous and forgiving heart of Jesus and the unlimited facets represent the origins of the unlimited graces that pour forth from it. From the ruby, again symbolic of Jesus’ heart in the Divine Mercy devotion, are multiple golden rays flowing forth in each direction known to man. These represent the multicolored rays that Saint Faustina saw emanating from the heart of Jesus. At the base of the shield is found the staff of the episcopal cross.
Overall, Bishop O’Connell’s coat of arms has remained faithful to the style of Church heraldry originally developed in the Middle Ages.
Click here to read a detailed account of Bishop O’Connell’s coat of arms.