Tom grew up in Ireland and qualified as an attorney in the Irish legal system. Then he took a new direction in life and joined a contemplative Catholic religious order called the Carmelites, and lived as a friar (a wandering monk) for 9 years working and studying in Ireland, Scotland, France and the USA. The Carmelites sent Tom to Washington, D.C. to study in 1987 and he has lived in America ever since.
In 1989 Tom left the Carmelite order and took a job at Loyola University in Maryland to research the impact of a Christian faith-based prison program on the success of the prisoners after their release. Since that time, twenty-six years ago, Tom has worked to develop human, spiritual and religious capital in the prison system, and to change himself so that he could better help the system to change and become more compassionate, less costly and more effective.
Tom has degrees in law, philosophy, counseling and theology; his Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America focused on Religion and Culture in the US Penal System. Tom has been nationally certified in the US as a chaplain and as a counselor. Tom lives in the Northwest of America in Oregon with Aislinn, his wife and professional illustrator
, and Sorcha, his 14 year-old daughter.
Most recently Tom worked as a research manager for two years and as the head chaplain for eight years with the Oregon Department of Corrections. He is currently an assistant professor in Criminal Justice
at Western Oregon University, and is CEO of Transforming Corrections
Tom is one of the leading researchers in the world on the role of chaplaincy, volunteers and religion in corrections
. Tom has trained thousands of people in the criminal justice system, including chaplains, prison staff of all kinds, probation officers, lawyers, judges and volunteers, in the use of “evidence-based practices” such as helping people to make meaning in their lives; Motivational Interviewing; Cognitive Behavioral Coaching; and how change agents can help people to lift themselves out of crime. He has trained and spoken in venues across the US, as well as in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, England and Australia. Tom is a gifted storyteller and has a great ability to engage and inspire people to approach their work in new and more life-giving ways.
Tom’s keynote address and other workshops at the conference will guide you through a learning process that will assist you to become a more effective change agent. Prior to the conference he will send you some web-based assessments that will help you to learn more about your preferred style of communication, collaboration and pastoral care. You will get your individual results before the conference. Then Tom will present the overall group findings at the conference to show us how to better match our own styles to the styles and needs of the people we work with. In his own dynamic way, Tom will guide us to discover more about who we are and how to “tell our story”, and about the unique strengths and gifts we bring to prison systems around the world. Dr. O’Connor will also lay out the latest research findings on how to become a more skilled and effective chaplain, and guide us in the development and practice of those skills at the conference.