PITTSFORD — “You see this?” Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark said to a visitor July 14, holding up an enlarged photograph of 9-month-old Etta Maise Jones.
Bishop Clark then smiled and chuckled for several minutes at that photo and other pictures of Etta, whose family has been friends with the bishop for many years.
“He’s going to tire himself out laughing. That’s what always happens,” remarked Sister of Mercy Mary Ann Binsack, who coordinates Bishop Clark’s correspondence and business affairs.
As mid-afternoon approached, a cake was brought into a parlor room at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, where Bishop Clark resides. David Russell, who works in the motherhouse kitchen, then led a small group of nuns and staff members in the singing of “Happy Birthday” for the bishop.
The mini-party occurred one day before Bishop Clark’s 84th birthday. According to Sister Binsack, he was planning to spend his actual birthday, July 15, with several family members coming in from out of town.
At the July 14 event, Bishop Clark consistently displayed the wide smile that endeared him to countless people across the Diocese of Rochester during his 33-year tenure as bishop (1979-2012). He spent much of the party chatting with well-wishers and opening cards and gifts.
“I got some very lovely cards,” he said.
One notable piece of correspondence came from Father Thomas Mull, pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva, who referred to Bishop Clark as his hero.
“He’s a hero for many of us,” agreed Sister Patricia Schoelles, SSJ, who attended the party.
Bishop Clark, a native of Albany, was ordained a priest of the Albany Diocese in 1962 in Rome, Italy. He was serving as spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College in that city when he was designated by St. John Paul II to become Bishop of Rochester at only 41 years old. He was ordained a bishop by John Paul on May 27, 1979, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and he was installed as the eighth bishop of Rochester on June 26 of that year.
Recalling his installation 42 years ago, Sister Binsack told Bishop Clark, “You don’t look a day older.” Indeed, several who attended the party commented on how good the bishop looks these days.
Bishop Clark’s lengthy tenure in the Rochester Diocese ranks second only to founding Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid’s 41 years (1868-1909). Following his retirement in 2012, Bishop Clark resided for several years at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton. In 2019, he announced publicly that he had been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
He has lived at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse since June 2020. Sister Binsack noted that Bishop Clark is recovering from a broken femur suffered this past spring, yet he “continues to enjoy and share stories with family and friends.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cards and letters for Bishop Clark can be mailed to him at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, 150 French Road, Rochester, NY 14618.
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