John W. O'Connell remembered as first Franciscan Services chief executive

January 15, 2019

John W. O'Connell, the first president and chief executive of Franciscan Services Corp., died Dec. 8 at his home in Ottawa Hills, Ohio. He was 75. A funeral Mass was held Dec. 14 at the Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Toledo, Ohio.


After earning a master's degree in health care administration from Xavier University, Army Lt. O'Connell became administrative head of the surgery department at Walter Reed General Hospital, now Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Following his Army discharge, O'Connell began his career in Catholic health care at St. John's Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., where he worked for seven years.

He then spent nine years as executive vice president at St. Joseph Hospital in Mount Clemens, Mich., before being hired to head Franciscan Services Corp., the newly formed health ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio. He headed that organization for 26 years, retiring in 2010.

O'Connell guided the development of Franciscan Living Communities, an eldercare subsidiary. It became the foundation for the expanded CHI Living Communities for seniors. (Franciscan Services changed its name to Sylvania Franciscan Health after O'Connell retired, and became part of Catholic Health Initiatives in 2014.)

O'Connell was a director and chairman of Preferred Professional Insurance Company of Omaha, Neb., a commercial insurer formed by several Catholic health care systems to provide malpractice insurance for physicians working in Catholic health care. He was a director of First Initiatives Insurance, Ltd., CHI's captive insurer.



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