Tom O'Neill

March 7, 1948 - September 2, 2009

This site is dedicated to remembering Fr. Tom O'Neill as a friend, colleague, educator, mentor, vice president, campus minister, and Catholic priest.

Fr. Tom arrived at Viterbo University in 1994. He brought with him what he called a "ministry of presence." It was this philosophy of being present for others that helped transform campus ministry into an important and vibrant part of the Viterbo experience, and endeared him to students and colleagues alike.

"I know there are people who have jobs they don't enjoy, and I don't know what that's like," Fr. Tom said in an interview for Strides magazine. "The work is rewarding and I enjoy it."

Fr. Tom was a powerful presence during his 15 years at Viterbo and he will be profoundly missed. Rest in Peace, Fr. Tom.


Rev. Thomas M. O'Neill, 61, of La Crosse, Wis. and formerly of Council Bluffs, Iowa, died Sept. 2 in La Crosse, Wis.

Fr. O'Neill was born March 7, 1948 in Council Bluffs, Iowa to T. Maurice and Marie O'Neill. He attended St. Francis Xavier Elementary School and Creighton Preparatory Jesuit High School, graduating in 1966. He joined the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) the same year.

He earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy and English literature from St. Louis University, a Master of Arts degree in English literature from St. Louis University, and a Master of Divinity in Canon Law from Jesuit School of Theology in Berkley, Calif. He was ordained to the Catholic Priesthood on June 9, 1978 in Omaha, Neb., and celebrated his first Mass at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Council Bluffs the next day.

Fr. O'Neill left the Jesuits in 1986 to become a diocesan priest. He was incardinated into the Diocese of La Crosse, where he served over 15 years as Vice President for Mission and Ministry and Chaplain at Viterbo University.

He is survived by his mother, six brothers, and three sisters. He was preceded in death by his father and his grandparents.

Throughout his career as a priest, Fr. O'Neill served in various ministries including Marquette University High School, Creighton University, Georgetown University, St. Francis of Assisi Parish and Lourdes High School in Rochester, Minn., Saint Mary's University in Winona, Minn., and Viterbo University. In 2005, he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study in Australia.

Fr. O'Neill particularly enjoyed all his work with high school and university students. His hobbies included travel, fiction reading, cooking, and the cinema. He was most proud to have been awarded Irish citizenship and an Irish passport.

Visitation will be held from 4-7 p.m. in Viterbo University San Damiano Chapel Thursday, Sept. 3. The wake will conclude with a 7 p.m. Vigil for the Deceased.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, at 10 a.m. in the San Damiano Chapel. The church will open at 9 a.m. Overflow seating will be in the Fine Arts Center Main Theatre. A community lunch will follow the Mass in Marian Hall Dining Room.

Additional arrangements are planned for services in Fr. O'Neill's hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, which include a Monday evening visitation and a Tuesday morning Mass and burial.

The family asks memorials be directed to Viterbo University, 900 Viterbo Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601 or the Diocese of La Crosse Priest Fund, P.O. Box 4004, La Crosse, WI 54602-4004.