August 7, 2012 // Local

Bishop D’Arcy thriving with ‘priestly work’ in retirement

Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus, shown here on the back porch of his Fort Wayne home, will celebrate his 80th birthday Saturday, Aug. 18.

By Vince LaBarbera

FORT WAYNE — When a layperson retires it’s said every day is like a Saturday. But a bishop is not retired in the usual sense of the word.

“In other words, a bishop always remains a bishop and is not like an official who ceases from his employment at a certain age. With regard to the particular Church for which he was bishop, the bishop emeritus continues his service in prayer and the other tasks provided by law.” — “The Bishop Emeritus,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Aug. 2009.

For Bishop John M. D’Arcy, bishop emeritus, who retired nearly two-and-one-half years ago on Jan. 13, 2010, retirement has been, in a sense, like a Sunday filled with teaching, sanctifying and governing spiritually — the threefold office of responsibility and sacred power he received when ordained to episcopal ministry in Boston on Feb. 11, 1975.

Retirement has been “a significant adjustment,” he said. “For me, what helped me most, the beautiful part of it, is the continuing priestly work,” he said.

Bishop D’Arcy says Mass daily in his Fort Wayne home, unless traveling, and often during the week at nearby St. John the Baptist Church; celebrates the noontime Mass every Friday at the cathedral’s St. Mother Theodore Guérin Chapel downtown, hearing confessions after Mass and again at 4:30 p.m.

“As often as I can I say Mass with people,” he added. He also celebrates Mass occasionally at the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, where he maintains an office. He misses the South Bend area, he emphasized, which he used to visit often in the past.

Also, he’s offered several retreats for priests and bishops, beginning in northern Michigan before his retirement was effective, discovering to his delight “there’s life after retirement,” he said. He’s since given retreats in Arlington, Va., Lincoln, Neb., Denver, Colo., two in Boston, and one this month for the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka. He’s also presented a three-day parish mission at St. Mary’s Church in Beverly, Mass., and, while in the area, gave a “Day of Recollection” at the Blessed John Paul II Seminary, Washington, D.C., giving about 17 talks in 10 days, he recalled.

“The best part of it and what has kept me strong is doing priestly work, whether retreats, celebrating Mass, hearing confessions — it’s like a rebirth of your priesthood,” he emphasized, citing a quote from “The Bishop Emeritus”: “The new lifestyle requires that a bishop emeritus redefine himself and his particular role … this can gradually compensate for the ‘emptiness’ through the exercise of pastoral charity expressed on many fronts, still fulfilling a paternity and episcopal charism that never go into retirement.”

In addition to preparing many talks for retreats and parish missions, Bishop D’Arcy has been doing some writing, recently for The Priest magazine, designed by Our Sunday Visitor to help priests in their vocation, in an article titled, “What Kind of Bishop Is  Needed in the Church Today?” published in the Jan. 1, 2012, issue.

Bishop D’Arcy was asked by the Exton, Pennsylvania-based program called “Good Leaders, Good Shepherds” — who do workshops for priests and new bishops to become better pastors — to present a keynote address, citing him in their brochure listing senior bishops as a “wisdom figure,” he quipped. That talk then became the basis for the recent article. He wrote: “What kind of bishop for these times? Someone who believes that the call of Jesus Christ to him is personal and someone who enters through the gate, which is Jesus Christ on the Cross, and does not try to make himself important and does not seek his own self-importance.”

Bishop D’Arcy said he had three goals in mind when he retired: initially, to pray and read more, saying he would probably give himself a “B” in that area; secondly, trying to get a little affluence on the Internet, using an i-Pad for email and reading the front page of The New York Times every morning – a “B or B minus” perhaps; and thirdly, to learn Spanish — an “incomplete” currently. “I haven’t given up on it,” he said, adding that he’s always been able to say Mass in Spanish.

Admittedly, he’s been busier than perhaps he should be, especially with the sacraments, Mass, preaching, prayer, reading, writing, presiding at about six weddings, and volunteering, with Bishop Kevin Rhoades’ approval, as a part-time chaplain at Bishop Luers High School and getting involved in preaching at more parish missions. He also teaches a class on occasion at both Bishop Luers and Bishop Dwenger high schools in Fort Wayne. And, last Lent, he preached and heard confessions at three of the four high schools in the diocese. Lastly, he gives spiritual direction to several diocesan and religious-order priests as well as some lay people; all which, he agreed, has nourished both his mind and spirit.

As for his bodily health: “I’m good,” he said. “Right after retiring I took off 26 pounds and I’ve gained maybe four or five back.”

He had 39 days of radiation treatment for cancer and with “good doctors” got through it okay, with just a few side effects, but “not bad,” he continued. And he tries to walk regularly, “almost every day,” in his neighborhood.

For enjoyment, he keeps “an eye on the Red Sox,” of course, reading the baseball box scores daily and watching some home and away games on television. Last month Bishop D’Arcy spent about three weeks in Boston visiting family and friends, relaxing and enjoying a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, which is observing its 100th anniversary this year. He also enjoys attending sporting events at Luers and Dwenger as well as at the University of Saint Francis in the football stadium named in his honor. And, he’s enjoyed attending a couple of TinCaps minor-league baseball games in Fort Wayne.

There are a few days when there is nothing on the calendar, he said. On those rare occasions he extends his walk, takes in a movie with fellow priests or just enjoys praying and reading, especially on the screened-in porch in his backyard overlooking a statue of the Blessed Mother below a blooming Rose of Sharon bush.

“When I was the bishop of the diocese I tried to take a day off every week and I urged the priests to do it,” he said. “The priest lives above the store, and his home becomes his office,” he emphasized. Some priests manage to separate their living conditions so there’s a home where they live, take their meals, relax and pray, and an office where they meet with people. “That’s very healthy,” he added.

Another consolation for Bishop D’Arcy is “being around the priests. We have a great presbyterate!” he emphasized. He also enjoys meeting with the seminarians, preaching and celebrating Mass with them. “We have this great communion between the priests and seminarians,” he stressed.

Later this month, Bishop D’Arcy will fly to Cape Cod to celebrate his 80th birthday with his remaining two sisters, their husbands and children. He will offer a private Mass with them on his birthday, Aug. 18, at St. Patrick Church in Falmouth, Mass., and celebrate the Sunday liturgy with the congregation the next day.

“I give thanks to God that I have been a bishop for 36 years and, under God’s grace, was the shepherd of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for 25 years, minus a few months, and now serve as bishop emeritus. I never felt worthy of any of it, but I look back on it with joy and gratitude,” Bishop D’Arcy wrote in The Priest.

“Everyone can see the shining examples of bishops emeriti who not only edify by their life of prayer but continue to excel in the service of our Lord and the Church by proclaiming the Word of God, performing useful and generous ministries, and disseminating so much good.” — “The Bishop Emeritus.”


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