Somehow, it feels fitting to me that I learned of the passing of Bishop Emeritus John Michael D’Arcy in a tweet from his brother Bishop Christopher Coyne on Sunday morning.
I can’t recall ever having met Bishop D’Arcy, and yet he was in a way a beautiful spiritual shepherd for me. From May 1, 1985 until November 14, 2009, he served as the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. This means that Bishop D’Arcy was my bishop when I graduated from Notre Dame in 1985, as I sat listening to our speaker the President of El Salvador (and Notre Dame alumnus) Jose Napoleon Duarte. It also means that Bishop D’Arcy was my bishop the following year when I married my best friend Greg on May 31, 1986 under the shadow of the dome in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. And you can surely believe that I prayed fervently about Bishop D’Arcy’s position not to attend the Notre Dame graduation in May of 2004 when President Obama spoke at my alma mater (… but that’s fodder for another post).
I never met Bishop D’Arcy in person, but I have read much about him and “known” him through my family who still live in and are active in the church in Fort Wayne. I attended the funerals of both of my paternal grandparents in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where Bishop D’Arcy’s Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday. While I won’t be there in person, I’ll likely experience it vicariously — possibly through tweets from @BishopCoyne — and will be sending prayers for the repose of his soul. I can recall vividly the emotion attendant to our farewell to our own Bishop Steinbock here in Fresno in December of 2010. The faithful will be flooding out to say goodbye to Bishop D’Arcy. Many of them will be folks like me, who never met the man in person, yet who grieve his passing and pray he’ll receive his eternal reward swiftly.
In closing, I leave you with a quotation from Bishop D’Arcy, excerpted from the letter he wrote on March 29, 2009 announcing his intention not to attend the Notre Dame graduation. For me, it sums up the essence of his pastoral attitude and would be well placed on the walls of every bishop (and for that matter every Catholic, replacing the word “bishop” with “Catholic”) in our country:
But a bishop must teach the Catholic faith “in season and out of season,” and he teaches not only by his words — but by his actions.
Adieu Bishop D’Arch. Rest in Peace.