On Feb. 3, 2023, a special Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne in honor of the 10-year anniversary of the passing of former Bishop John M. D’Arcy.
The idea of honoring the memory of Bishop D’Arcy in this way was initially brought forth by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, though he will be unable to celebrate the Mass personally on the exact date. Father Mark Gurtner, Vicar General for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, will instead offer this Mass in the former bishop’s honor.
Father Gurtner was accepted to seminary by Bishop D’Arcy and ordained to the priesthood by him in 1996. He further shared, “Bishop D’Arcy also served as my spiritual director, so I came to know him well. D’Arcy was a Boston Irishman, he was very serious as a bishop, but also quite lighthearted and could be really funny. His nature was very endearing to everyone.”
Originally from Brighton, Massachusetts, John D’Arcy was born in 1932 and entered St. John’s Seminary in 1949. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston in 1957 and later studied in Rome from 1965-1968, earning a Doctorate in Spiritual Theology from the Angelicum. He then returned to Boston and served the community there faithfully, including as Spiritual Director and Professor of Theology at St. John’s Seminary. He was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston in 1975 and was appointed Vicar for Spiritual Development for the archdiocese, where he worked with determination to maintain the health of parishes, priests, and lay faithful.
It was during this time that Bishop D’Arcy on several occasions attempted to raise serious alarms about priests serving in the archdiocese who were engaging in inappropriate relationships with young boys. Unfortunately, his concerns and warnings were not acted upon with conviction and he was eventually reassigned here as the Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 1985.
His attempts to defend children and expose predator priests during the height of the abuse crisis eventually came to light in later years, vindicating him as one of the lone voices in the wilderness and one not afraid to disrupt the status quo if it meant protecting a life or saving a soul.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, he continued to serve as he had in Boston, working to ensure the clergy was healthy so the parishes could thrive. Given the opportunity, both priests and laity alike expressed a desire to share fond memories of their former bishop.
Monsignor Michael Heintz, former Pastor of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in South Bend, now serving as Academic Dean and Director of Intellectual Formation at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, knew Bishop D’Arcy well and had been the requested homilist for his funeral Mass in 2013.
When asked about what he had learned from the former bishop, Monsignor Heintz responded, “St. Jerome, known for being rather direct in his advice to others, in a letter to his friend the bishop Heliodorus, reminded him, “a position of prominence in the Church does not the Christian make.” I first met Bishop D’Arcy when I was a 17-year-old senior at Marian High School. He accepted me as a seminarian and ordained me a priest. And in my years as a priest, I observed two fundamental traits of his character which demonstrated that he not only understood but embodied Jerome’s advice. First, he had a profound understanding of and reverence for the office of bishop — rooted in his deep and obvious love for the priesthood — as a sacred, almost spousal, trust. And second, he was simultaneously and almost singularly devoid of pretense about or ambition for that office. He regularly and repeatedly placed the good of the souls entrusted to his care before his own comfort, desires, or personal interest, and in this he was truly a model, not only for the flock, but perhaps especially for priests.”
For Father Andrew Budzinski, Pastor of St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, while much of his pastoral leadership was influenced by Bishop D’Arcy’s example and instruction, he remembers him most fondly as a father. He shared “one of my favorite memories is being with Father Drew Curry shortly before bishop was going to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game and wanted some practice. So, together the three of us stood behind the Cathedral, playing catch in the backyard; a dad and his sons.”
Christina Nicholson, a parishioner at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, echoed these sentiments by sharing her personal experiences. She revealed, “Bishop D’Arcy was a dear and true friend. He helped me discern many things, including through struggles in my faith and prayer life in high school. He always pointed me to Christ and what truly matters: virtue and getting to Heaven. He was the prime example of the priesthood and the good shepherd that a bishop is called to be. He saw this diocese as his bride and he loved everyone in it. He was willing to lay down his life, to suffer, and to pursue virtue for her — for us. He embodied that, I know he was passionate about it, and I believe he accomplished that.” Nicholson added, “when I was in college, Bishop D’Arcy was very instrumental in helping me discern my vocation to married life and I later ended up coming to work for the diocese in the Office of Catechesis. While I am sad that he wasn’t around to marry my husband Ben and me, it had been on my heart to name my first son after him, which we were blessed to do with the birth of Michael D’Arcy Nicholson on Easter in 2016. Afterwards, I was reminded that this had been bishop’s father’s name. He would always speak so lovingly and with such respect about his parents, so to inadvertently name my son after his dad was a special, unexpected gift.”
Robert Kloska, a South Bend native and parishioner at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, likewise shared his gratitude for the bishop, saying, “I loved Bishop D’Arcy. I’ll always remember how thoughtful and attentive he was when I was going through several bouts of cancer. He inquired about my situation constantly and even called my wife out of the blue to see how she was doing while I was on the ropes in the hospital. That was very touching and I’ll forever be grateful for his prayers and encouragement.”
All are welcome to pay tribute to the memory of our former bishop and continue to pray for him at this anniversary Mass on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at 12:05 p.m.
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