FORT WAYNE — The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne was overflowing with family, friends, dignitaries, Catholics and non-Catholics alike from across the area mourning the death of the man who had shepherded them in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend for nearly 25 years as bishop. The noon Funeral Mass for Bishop John M. D’Arcy on Feb. 8 was the culmination of the three-day funeral service event for the beloved bishop that began in South Bend on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at St. Matthew Cathedral.
Bishop D’Arcy, who was diagnosed with a rare form of lung/brain cancer over the Christmas holiday in his hometown of Brighton, Mass., at the age of 80, died Feb. 3, the 56th anniversary of his first Mass.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was the celebrant of the Funeral Mass. Other bishops from across the country and state who concelebrated were Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, Archbishop Emeritus Alfred Hughes of New Orleans and Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill, a former auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
As the congregation raised their voices in unison for the entrance hymn “For All the Saints” the magnificent procession of gold and white robed deacons, priests and bishops, along with many seminarians, some who were accepted by Bishop D’Arcy for seminary, proceeded to the sanctuary for the opening of Mass. Bishop Rhoades began by
welcoming all in attendance and offering his gratitude for the many priests and bishop, and dignitaries including U.S. Senator Tom Donnelly, several state senators, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, university presidents including Holy Cross Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, school principals, Our Sunday Visitor board members and ecumenical church leaders who came to celebrate the life of Bishop D’Arcy.
As the Mass commenced on that overcast Friday, the sun came out and blazed a beam on the altar of the cathedral just as Bishop Rhoades incensed it, as if the heavens were opening to the celebration.
Msgr. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral, was the homilist for the Funeral Mass.
He spoke about how Bishop D’Arcy celebrated his first Mass at Our Lady of the Presentation Church in Brighton, Mass., “the church where he had been brought by his immigrant parents for Baptism, where he was plunged into the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising, a mystery that every celebration of the Eucharist makes present and tangible,” Msgr. Heintz said.
“This central act of his daily life as a priest was to format his every duty and pastoral task. Whether at St Mary, Star of the Sea in Beverly, his first assignment, or as a spiritual director at St John’s Seminary in Brighton, as auxiliary and regional bishop in Lowell and, beginning in 1985, as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne- South Bend, at the center of his priestly life was the Mass, that unparalleled encounter with Christ in Word and Sacrament, the basic contours of which were first manifest to Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road to Emmaus: a dialogue, an opening up the Scriptures, and the breaking of the bread. For two millennia, the triad of dialogue, Word, and Eucharist has comprised the pattern of Catholic worship.”
Msgr. Heintz recalled the intimate moments Bishop D’Arcy found to be in prayer with God. “Prayer, daily, intimate conversation and communion with the Lord Jesus, the heart of the life of any believer, was central to Bishop’s preaching, his work as a spiritual director, and his devotion to spiritual development and parish mission work. How many times, at the end of a long day, would he come over from his office to this beautiful cathedral he restored, to spend some quiet moments in prayer, alone, in silence, finding here, in the presence of the One he knew loved him, both solace and strength? At the core of his priestly heart was the intimate dialogue that is the life of prayer.”
He shared a personal encounter with Bishop D’Arcy in his final hours. “On Friday, when I was privileged to celebrate Mass with him at his home, while in his bed, he clutched a crucifix, and numerous times brought it to his lips, renewing his faith, expressing the intimacy he shared with his Crucified Lord. I could only think of St Paul’s words to the Galatians, now preached by Bishop D’Arcy in a wordless act of love and devotion: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; the life I now live is no longer my own; Christ lives in me.’ That Word became flesh before my eyes, as I witnessed the profound love with which Bishop was bearing his own pain and suffering, and offering it, or more correctly, offering himself, for all of us: for the bishop, priests, and people he loved so deeply, so steadfastly.”
He said, “But exercising to the end the ‘munus propheticum’ entrusted to the successors of the Apostles, even from his sickbed, Bishop was teaching us, like Blessed John Paul II, the meaning of the Mass, the meaning of our baptism; he was teaching us how to die. A priest of Jesus Christ to the end, he offered himself back to God and he died with the same love and generosity with which he exercised his ministry.”
After 28 years of serving the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Mgsr. Heintz had observed, “two fundamental traits of his character which I suggest indicate 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, indeed spousal, trust. And second, he was simultaneously and almost singularly devoid of pretense about or ambition for that office.”
He added with a chuckled, “He loved muffins. Maureen would call and say, ‘Bishop would like to see you; he will stop by this morning at such and such a time; and he would love a cup of coffee and a muffin.’ And I would hang up and think to myself, ‘Well sure, Bishop, I’ll run right out back and pluck a couple fresh ones off the muffin tree.’”
On the lighter side on life Msgr. Heintz emphasized that the good bishop was “genuinely interested in every person he met; he had an incredible memory for detail and a command of names. He began every diocesan meeting with the same three words: ‘Sorry I’m late.’ And he was always the last to leave any gathering or reception; the last car to wheel out of the parking lot after any event was a black Chrysler, in whose trunk could be found, at any particular moment, a collection of miters and a crozier, CDs of Irish music, the Confirmation Ritual, a baseball glove, several baseball hats, a volume or two of the breviary, tennis shoes and a hockey stick (his trunk was the perfect blend of EWTN and ESPN).”
Bishop D’Arcy was known to be a good conversationalist and was fond of sending memos. Msgr. Heintz recalled in his homily, “During his July vacation each summer, I noticed we would receive missives from him even while we knew he was on the back porch in Brighton; so one day I called Maureen and asked if these were time-release letters. The consummate professional and completely loyal, she declined comment.”
On the lighter side on life Msgr. Heintz emphasized that the good bishop was “not only a deep Irish faith, but also a quick Irish wit. At one gathering, a rather enthusiastic speaker proclaimed, ‘I’ve never met a priest I didn’t like,’ and Bishop leaned over and whispered, ‘He hasn’t met ‘em all yet.’ He had boundless pastoral energy driven by truly admirable pastoral charity. He was a priest’s priest. In his retirement he helped regularly with Mass and Confessions as a chaplain at Bishop Luers High School, and also in his ‘home parish,’ St John the Baptist, just down the street from his house. Even when he disagreed with someone — and he could, quite candidly; on more than one occasion I heard the words ‘Mike, you’re wrong on that’ — he always loved the person he disagreed with.”
He added, “As each of here has no doubt witnessed, he regularly and repeatedly placed the good of the souls entrusted to his care before his own comfort, desires, or personal interest, and in that he has truly been a model, not only for his flock, but perhaps especially for us who are priests.”
Bishop D’Arcy, said Msgr. Heintz, lived a spousal love for his diocese with “every fiber of his being.” And “as much as he dearly loved Brighton, his dear sisters, Anne and Joan, his beloved nephews and his niece, his back porch, and his Red Sox, this was now his home. He knew he was dying, and he wanted to come home, to die in the arms of his spouse, here in Fort Wayne, with and among the people for whom he had laid down his life,” he said.
Concluding his homily Msgr. Heintz said reverently, “Michael D’Arcy began his priestly life with a first Mass, celebrated on Feb. 3, 1957. And on Feb. 3, 2013, his earthly life came to an end, when he entered fully into the death of Christ, an act of faith, hope and love he had anticipated and experienced countless times before sacramentally at the altar, a life and a priesthood now, as it were, come full circle.
It is our prayer that John Michael D’Arcy, a priest forever and a successor of the apostles, is now reunited with his parents and his sister in the company of the angels and saints at that Eternal Eucharist of the Lamb where he sees his Lord, no more veiled in sacrament, but face to face. Requiescat in pace.”
At the close of the Funeral Mass Bishop Rhoades performed the Incensation of the Body as the congregation sang the Song of Farewell, “Come to His Aid,” their voices rising to the heavens with the scented cloud of the incense. Following the final commendation in which Bishop Rhoades extended sympathy to Bishop D’Arcy family saying, “I extend sincere sympathy, our love and prayers, to Bishop D’Arcy’s sisters, Sister Anne and Joan, Joan’s husband Hugh and their children Darcy, John, and Patrick, and Bishop D’Arcy’s niece Jacinta.” The bishop also expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and prayers for Bishop D’Arcy and for the great care he received from Maureen Schott, Bishop D’Arcy’s administrative assistant, in his final days. During his remarks the bishop read a message from the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, which shared the condolences of Pope Benedict XVI at the death of Bishop D’Arcy. Repeating the words heard spoken by Bishop D’Arcy at many past funeral Masses celebrated in the diocese, Bishop Rhoades concluded saying, “Safe home, John, Safe home.” Following a spontaneous burst of applause, the traditional “Salve Regina” hymn was sung in Bishop D’Arcy’s final send off.
A reception was open to the public at the Grand Wayne following the Funeral Mass. Bishop D’Arcy’s sister, Sister Anne D’Arcy, remarked that Msgr. Heintz “captured him (Bishop D’Arcy) perfectly” in his homily. Her long-time friend from Boston Peg Brett McCobb simply said of the solemn Mass, “It can never be repeated.”
Lee Will, parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne agreed saying, “The service was a wonderful send off.” He appreciated Bishop D’Arcy’s leadership in the diocese and added, “I liked him a lot and knew he loved the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. We talked about the trips he must have made between here and South Bend!”
Micki Evans of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception said of the bishop who had become her spiritual director, “He was a saint.”
Our Lady of Victory Noll Sister Mary Jo Nelson had a great respect for Bishop D’Arcy’s intense care of his diocese and ability to remember names and faces. She said, “I think he was very attentive to my community, especially the older sisters. I was struck by the fact that he remembered names and faces. … I found him to be very open to the issues of the Church. He was a great listener. Even if he didn’t agree he still listened and had respect for the person who had a different viewpoint. He wanted people to share what they were really thinking. That gift is so needed in the Church and he gave it.”
Shirley Vorndran, who was Bishop D’Arcy’s secretary for 15 years, told Today’s Catholic, “What I found in Bishop D’Arcy was whatever he did, his sole motive was for the souls of the diocese. He never made a decision that wasn’t for the good of the souls of the diocese.”
The Rite of Committal was conducted privately with the family in the Crypt of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.