The family of Cardinal John O'Connor has recently made a stunning discovery -- the New York archbishop's mother was born Jewish, and her family is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut.
O'Connor, archbishop of New York from 1984 until he died in 2000, had a brother and two sisters. One of those sisters, Mary O'Connor Ward, recently wrote a column for Catholic New York, explaining the revelation about her family.
"It was a surprise I never expected," she wrote.
She told The New York Times for a story published Tuesday that, according to Jewish tradition, her mother being Jewish means she and her siblings are too.
"Of that I am very proud," she said.
O'Connor Ward, who is 87 and lives near Philadelphia, said she stumbled upon the information while researching her ancestry, and found that her grandparents were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Fairfield.
"How could this be?" she wrote. "How did I go through life not knowing this?"
She said she is convinced her brother was not aware of their mother's heritage.
The children had always known that their mother, who died in 1971, converted to Catholicism before marrying their father, but assumed she made the change from another Christian denomination.
"Her journey of faith was simply never mentioned or spoken of in our family," O'Connor Ward wrote. "My eyes fill with tears and I smile as I think of how my brother would have cherished the thought. "
Her brother, she said, "had a deep and profound love for the Jewish people. ... He cherished their friendships and thought of them as his dear older spiritual brothers."