By Karen Clifford
SOUTH BEND — On the morning of Jan. 3, Bishop John M. D’Arcy received a phone call from his sister asking about the inclement weather she had heard about for his Mass of thanksgiving at St. Matthew Cathedral.
“I said we had 13 inches of snow. She said that no one would be at Mass. I said in South Bend they’re tough,” he replied.
And so began a day of reflection filled with hope, joy, somber memories and laughter, to a standing-room-only crowd at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend to mark Bishop D’Arcy’s last Mass as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. On Jan. 13, Bishop D’Arcy will assume the role of bishop emeritus.
The bishop celebrated the feast of the Epiphany by proclaiming it “as the manifestation of the universality of the church of Jesus Christ coming for everyone enjoining the gentiles to Israel. Paul said the gentiles are coheirs of the body and copartners of the promise of Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
Bishop D’Arcy reminded those in attendance that in the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi prostrate themselves and adore the divinity of the Christ Child. In turn, Christ calls on us to reach out to every heart. But the bishop noted that following Christ is not always easy.
“The cross is seen in Epiphany. Those that follow the light and that seek the truth will suffer. But evil will never have the last word,” he said.
Acknowledging Christ’s divinity is not limited to the Magi, but should be incorporated in daily life, Bishop D’Arcy recalled reading his mother’s beautiful words in a letter to him while he studied in Rome about seeing Jesus’ crib for the last time for the year at Epiphany.
“She was evangelizing to me across the miles. The first evangelizers are the parents. I see the parents and grandparents bringing their children to the crib at Christmas Eve and passing on the faith and truth and teaching. Through the preaching of the Gospel people are saved and brought to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God and like the Magi we adore him when we receive the Eucharist. This is the joy that never ends,” he stressed.
Near the end of the Mass, St. Matthew parishioner John Cavadini read a letter he had written to the bishop for this occasion. “Twenty years ago when I came to this diocese, I did not know that the Boston Red Sox was the greatest and most beloved baseball team in North America. I have all these years thought it was the Yankees,” Cavadini joked.
“Luckily I was able to read Bishop D’Arcy’s column in Today’s Catholic. I do really care now about how the Red Sox are doing because I know he cares,” he continued.
Cavadini emphasized the bishop’s countless Confirmations, parish dedications, visits to the soup kitchens and press conferences on both ends of the diocese showed the bishop’s love for his parishioners. Even the often dark and solitary drive on Highway 30 between Fort Wayne and South Bend was met with challenges and “unfortunately a speed limit.”
“The beneficiaries of his attention were us — the real Church of flesh and blood, of saint and sinner. You made us feel that Christ really did die out of love for us, here in South Bend on the banks of the St. Joseph River, far from Washington, Rome and Fenway Park,” said Cavadini.
Bishop D’Arcy’s concluding remarks looked from the past to future of the diocese. “It has been a privilege to be a bishop here for almost 25 years. I know that with all my heart the appointment of Bishop (Kevin C.) Rhoades is an appointment of the Holy Spirit.”
A reception in the school gym celebrated the bishop’s gifts of love and leadership in the diocese.
Anna Stein, who is a sacristan at St. Matthew, reflected on the bishop’s tenure with fondness. “His retirement is bittersweet. I’m happy for him, but I’m sad that I won’t see him on a routine basis. I’ve always loved his presence, especially at Easter. He always gives me a hug.”
St. Matthew associate pastor, Father Jacob Runyon, credits Bishop D’Arcy with his decision to become a priest. “Bishop D’Arcy has really been a father figure to me. He has helped me to grow in holiness and continue on the path towards the priesthood. He’s really been a great spiritual mentor to me; part bishop, part spiritual director. He has helped me to pray and grow closer to the Lord Jesus.”
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