ROCHESTER — It’s not often that applause breaks out during a homily.
Yet that was the congregation’s reaction when Father Joseph Hart stated, “You and I know that Bishop Clark was one of the finest and most well-rounded individuals we’ve ever known.”
Father Hart gave his homily midway through an evening prayer service Sunday, Jan. 29, for Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, leader of the Diocese of Rochester for more than 33 years. The service took place at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Bishop Clark, 85, died Jan. 22 at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford.
The prayer service was to be followed Jan. 30 by public visitation in the morning and the late bishop’s funeral Mass at noon, also at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Private entombment was to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Evening vigil in Rochester draws many
The nearly 90-minute prayer service was led by Bishop Salvatore R. Matano. He was joined by Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Cunningham of the Diocese of Syracuse. Bishop Cunningham had served as apostolic administrator of the Rochester Diocese between Bishop Clark’s retirement in September 2012 and Bishop Matano’s installation in January 2014.
Also in attendance were priests, deacons, Bishop Clark’s family members and many well-wishers. The prayer service was preceded by four hours of public visitation for Bishop Clark, who lay in state in an open casket near the cathedral’s altar.
The readings, multiple hymns and liturgical ministers for the prayer service had all been selected by Bishop Clark in advance.
The reading preceding Father Hart’s homily quoted 1 John 3:1-2:
“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
All were children of God in bishop’s eyes
Sister Connie Derby, RSM, who proclaimed the reading, told the Catholic Courier that Bishop Clark made no exclusions when assessing who deserves to be counted as God’s children as described in 1 John.
“He saw everyone in his shepherding as children of God. That was clearly expressed in everything he did,” said Sister Derby, who worked with Bishop Clark for many years at the diocesan Pastoral Center in Gates.
“Bishop Matthew greeted you whether you were old or young, powerful or lowly,” Father Hart added during his homily.
Father Hart, pastor of Brighton’s St. Thomas More/Our Lady Queen of Peace parishes, served as diocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia under Bishop Clark from 1998-2012. He noted in the homily that Bishop Clark often was sought out by community leaders for personal counsel and advice — and that the bishop also made frequent visits to hospitals and nursing homes; was highly popular among children and teens; and stayed in close touch with his priests.
Honor Bishop Clark by imitating him
Speaking just before the final blessing, Bishop Matano encouraged those in attendance to follow the example Bishop Clark had set as shepherd of this diocese.
“We could give Bishop Clark no greater gift, and honor him in no better way, than by continuing our own faithful participation in the life of the church — by our frequent and regular attendance at Holy Mass, by seeking the Lord’s forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, imitating his own humility that characterized his episcopal ministry,” Bishop Matano said.Tags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark