Bishop John D’Arcy: In Memoriam
John D’Arcy, Bishop emeritus of Fort Wayne–South Bend, died on February 3rd. Monsignor Michael Heintz, the Rector of the Cathedral there, preached the homily at the Mass of Christian Burial. Here are three excerpts from the homily:
Bishop D’Arcy’s last days became a Mass, his final Mass. St Paul tells us that by our baptism we somehow carry about in our bodies the dying of the Lord. And at every Mass, we unite ourselves to Christ as he offers himself in love to the Father; this is what the Eucharist both teaches us and enables us by grace to do; we are supposed to die with him. We do so, of course, quite imperfectly: sometimes distracted, sometimes weary or worried, sometimes self-absorbed and only haltingly able to give ourselves so generously through him, and with him and in him. . . . A priest of Jesus Christ to the end, John D’Arcy offered himself back to God and he died with the same love and generosity with which he exercised his ministry. Even our death can become sacramental: in our very dying we can bear witness to Jesus. Thanks be to God, who in Christ has filled death – even our death – with Life, His Life.
St Jerome, not known for being particularly warm and affirming in offering advice to others, in a letter to his old friend, the new bishop Heliodorus, reminded him rather sternly, Non facit ecclesiastica dignitas christianum: loosely translated, “a position of prominence in the Church does not the Christian make.” . . . [F]or the last twenty eight years, I have observed two fundamental traits of John D’Arcy’s 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.
Bishops wear a ring. It is a sign of the spousal relationship the bishop is to have with his diocese, a notion that goes way back to the Council of Nicaea. Bishop D’Arcy lived that spousal love with every fiber of his being. When he fell ill in Boston, a number of folks thought he might simply remain there; after all, that is where he was born and raised, and so many assumed that’s where he’d be buried. But I could sense the anxiety in his voice over the phone as he made arrangements to get back to Fort Wayne as soon as possible following his radiation treatments. He must have had a presentiment that his time was very short. 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.