The Savannah St. Patrick's Day Parade is always historic, and there will be some bittersweet history made Saturday. Monsignor William O'Neill will celebrate his final St. Patrick's Day Parade as rector at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Monsignor O'Neill will be retiring in June. He has served for 46 years, the last 25 of those in Savannah, including 17 years as rector at the cathedral.
Monsignor O'Neill oversaw the renovation of the cathedral in 2000 and is now overseeing another fairly major repair. They are patching up some cracks in the plaster and the steeple is being fixed, which is why the scaffolding is up. He expects the renovations to be done by the middle of May, a little more than a month before he officially retires.
Now, Monsignor O'Neill's attention turns to the inside of the cathedral. On Saturday, for the last time, he will be at the cathedral hours before the opening hymn of the St. Patrick's Day Mass to prepare to the church as he has for 17 years. Even though it is a long day, he is looking forward to Saturday and beyond.
"When I retire, I hope to do what a priest should be doing and that is taking care of people, not bricks. That is what I am looking forward to," said Monsignor O'Neill.
Monsignor O'Neill will be maintaining residence in Savannah so this will not be his last St. Patrick's Day Parade, just his final one in an official capacity. He plans to spend the summer in Ireland to allow for the transition to a new rector.