By Carolyn Dinova
COLUMBUS, Ohio — At its inaugural Good Shepherd Dinner on Oct. 26, the Pontifical College Josephinum presented Bishop- Emeritus John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, with the Good Shepherd: Defending the Truth Award. More than 150 guests — relatives and friends of Bishop D’Arcy as well as members of the seminary community — were present for the celebration.
“This evening we praise our God for the many blessings that have come to us,” said Father James A. Wehner, rector and president of Pontifical College Josephinum. He offered the welcoming address and explained that The Good Shepherd: Defending the Truth Award considers how Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd, exhorted the Apostles to lay down their lives for the sake of love. “Bishop D’Arcy has exemplified the virtues of a Good Shepherd through his leadership of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and through his unwavering support of the Josephinum,” he said.
Fort Wayne-South Bend seminarian Deacon Matthew Coonan, whom Bishop D’Arcy ordained to the Order of Deacon last spring, spoke about his bishop from a seminarian’s perspective. “The seminarian may not know his bishop in quite the same capacity as a priest in his presbyterate, but the seminarian does have a unique perspective of the bishop’s ministry,” he said. “We were close to you, bishop, through your time and conversations with us. You spoke to us as a father to sons. You talked with us about seminary life, about formation, and opened up to us about being a pastor and a spiritual father.
“Times like that we will never forget,” Deacon Coonan said. “We were so blessed to have a bishop who was close to us. How grateful we are that you showed us that fatherly love.”
Bishop D’Arcy is known and respected for his courage and perseverance in his ministry in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, especially through the abuse crisis and the years following. Through his leadership, Bishop D’Arcy personified, and helped the seminarians to understand more clearly, the Good Shepherd.
“We saw this in the way that you taught us, in the way that you taught our diocese,” said Deacon Coonan. “We saw it when, at times, you were pushed by certain circumstances to stand up for the Truth and to defend the Truth. We also saw how, first, before standing up in the public eye, you tried to move in a subtle way to shepherd others toward embracing the Truth. That is the heart of a true Good Shepherd, one who is close to his sheep, loves them, and guides them to Christ.”
After receiving the award — an 18-inch bronze statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd, mounted upon an inscribed marble base — Bishop D’Arcy offered words of gratitude to Father Wehner and to the Josephinum. “It is a great honor. I don’t feel I deserve it. We have a wonderful college of bishops, several of whom are here. So many are more deserving of this than I,” he said.
Three other bishops were present at the dinner: Bishop Roger Foys of Covington; Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus; and Bishop-emeritus James Griffin of Columbus.
Reflecting on his episcopacy and the issues that had to be addressed during his time, Bishop D’Arcy said, “I only did, in the questions before me, what I thought was right. I am conscious of my mistakes, errors and sins. Whatever I accomplished was the result of the light and grace given by Christ.”
The call to priesthood, specifically seminary formation, was the primary focus of the bishop’s remarks. He spoke of his own background in seminary work — his years as spiritual director and teacher at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
As bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, he sent four of his priests to visit seminaries in the Midwest. They selected the Josephinum for the formation of the diocese’s seminarians. “I have been very pleased with this seminary and its academic and spiritual formation,” said Bishop D’Arcy. “I have a regard for Msgr. Paul Langsfeld, a former rector, and especially thank Father James Wehner who has brought great strength and leadership to this seminary.”
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend currently has six seminarians in formation at the Josephinum.
Quoting often from the encyclicals and letters of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop D’Arcy spoke of the admittance of men to seminary formation and the importance of weighing the authenticity of the seminarians’ vocations.
“This is a familiar theme of this pontificate and of all pontificates during the 54 years that I have been a priest,” he said. “And it places a special responsibility upon bishops and vocations directors, and upon this historic seminary.”
Following the bishop’s remarks, a closing blessing was given by Bishop Campbell, and the seminarians of the Josephinum lead everyone in a prayerful singing of the Salve Regina.
“The role of a bishop in today’s world is very challenging,” said Father Wehner. “As St. Paul says, they must be all things to all people. Very clearly, Bishop D’Arcy has been able to live this in his own life as a model of the Good Shepherd, willing to lay down his life for his people, for his priests and for God Himself.”
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