If there’s one thing Kathleen Hannigan O’Connor is sure about, it is that her spouse, the Rev. Canon John Taylor — now bishop coadjutor-elect of the Diocese of Los Angeles — will work really hard for the church.
“We’re just so thankful for this opportunity and really humbled by it,” O’Connor, better known as “Kathy,” told the Episcopal News recently. “John is a humble man and this is an amazing wonderful opportunity for him. He’s going to give one thousand percent of himself to this.”
Since Taylor’s Dec. 3 election O’Connor has felt “overwhelming joy. I am so happy for John. I am happy for the church. I am happy for the diocese because I’ve grown to love this diocese and I feel strongly — obviously, I’m biased because I’m married to him — I think he’ll be a fabulous bishop.”
The Bronx, New York-born and raised O’Connor and Taylor met while working for former President Richard Nixon. She was a personal secretary; he was chief of staff.
“I got the job working for President Nixon in 1980 and shortly after that, that same year John relocated from California to New York to work for President Nixon as well. That was when we first met,” she said.
Friends for many years, they lived “parallel lives,” marrying other people. Each had two children and eventually divorced. “John left New York in 1990 to run the Nixon Library,” she recalled.
“I became President Nixon’s last chief of staff in New York and New Jersey. He died in 1994 and I moved out to California a year later to work at the Nixon Library.”
The couple married in 2002 and that was O’Connor’s introduction to the Episcopal Church. Taylor grew up in the Episcopal Church in Detroit; she was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools with her three siblings.
“When John decided to go back to St. Andrew’s, Fullerton, and I started going with him, I was so drawn to it,” she recalled. “I loved the inclusiveness of it, the welcoming, I just felt so at home with Fr. Mark (Shier).”
Taylor served at St. Andrew’s for a year and in 2004 became vicar of St. John’s Chrysostom in Rancho Santa Margarita.
O’Connor immersed herself in the life of the church. She coordinates and serves as a LEM or Lay Eucharistic Minister. Together, she and Taylor lead a group of young adults. “I participate in the women’s ministries and all their events and help out people as I can,” she said.
Seven years ago, she left the Nixon Library and went to work for the Orange County Transportation Authority as a records administrator. “So I take care of all their archived records.”
She intends to continue in that role “as long as it is feasible.”
“I have a big learning curve” she said, and is hoping to learn from diocesan bishops’ spouses Mary Bruno and Steve Bruce.
“What I’m hoping and praying is that my role will evolve naturally,” she said. “I can’t say with any certainty right now what exactly I’d be most drawn to.” But she added that she and John are “eager to meet and to learn from as many people as we possibly can.
“I am wanting to learn more about the diversity in the diocese, and letting my heart lead me to where I think I most belong.”
She is hoping to use some of her fundraising experience in the diocese, to aid organizations “I feel drawn to and that need and ask for my help. My heart is open.”
What she most wants people to know about her is that “I am passionate about Jesus Christ as my redeemer, my God and my Savior. I am passionate about my friends, my family, my community.”
Together she and Taylor have four children. Daniel O’Connor is 32 and is a talent agent for William Morris, living in New York. Her daughter Meaghan O’Connor, 28, is a social worker in San Diego for a nonprofit agency called Angels Foster Care Network. She married P.J. Bovee, a musician, last January.
Taylor’s elder daughter and son-in-law Valerie and Mark Passarella, who attended convention, are 31. She works for the city of Yorba Linda, where the couple lives. His younger daughter, Lindsay Taylor, is 28. She lives in La Habra and works for a thrift store chain and is an entrepreneur.
“All of our children are overjoyed. They’re very happy for John and for the diocese as well.”
O’Connor, 58, said she hopes to emulate throughout the diocese the pastoral and hospitable culture she and Taylor have worked hard to build at St. John’s.
“I want the diocesan community to know that I’m going into this with love and hope that I can help make a difference, help improve people’s lives within the diocese.”