First bishop offered much to diocese - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

First bishop offered much to diocese

I almost always consult the ordo, or church calendar, before
celebrating the Eucharist. I want to be sure of the texts and any
special features of the day. And, I like to see which, if any, of the
priests of our diocese died on that date. It has been my custom to pray
in thanksgiving for their ministry to the people of our diocese and to
pray for them and their families.

Last Sunday, Jan. 18, the ordo reminded me that on that date in
1909, the founding bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, Bernard J.
McQuaid, went home to God. At the time of his death, he had served as
our bishop for 41 years.

Bishop McQuaid’s tenure was an extraordinary one not just in terms
of length of tenure but in achievement. With his leadership, the people
of this diocese accomplished remarkable things in education, in service
to the poor and vulnerable, in health care and in forging a place for
Catholics in a cultural environment that frequently was inimical to
their presence.

The reading I have done about Bishop McQuaid indicates that his
presence was felt far beyond the borders of our diocese. He was a
person who spoke his mind, and he was involved more than once in
national controversies. The most widely reported one was with
Archbishop John Ireland of Minneapolis-St. Paul, with whom he disagreed
on how best to strengthen and support Catholic life and identity in a
pluralistic society.

Nor did the controversies in which our founding bishop was involved
end at our borders. With his confreres of that age, he continually
engaged in vigorous conversations with the Holy See about how best to
guide a burgeoning but relatively new church in a dynamic and
challenging new republic.

It won’t surprise you given all of the above, that our father and
friend, Bernard did not live a carefree life. Indeed, I often have said
to friends over the years that whenever I am feeling sorry for myself
because of a tough time, I open a biography of Bishop McQuaid, read of
his concerns and then fall asleep in peace.

I write a bit about Bishop McQuaid for whom I did pray on Sunday and
of whom I have thought a good deal since. But, I have mentioned him
primarily to say that I have prayed a good deal this week for you and
for myself, in that we are all in a real way his spiritual descendants.
We are beneficiaries of many of the decisions and good works he and
that first diocesan community effected.

In that prayer I also thanked God for the faith and strength of our
present-day diocesan community. We are richly blessed in many ways, not
the least of which is in your willingness to deal honestly and
generously with the pastoral challenges of the day. It leaves me with
the confident sense that we receive the gifts offered by our mothers
and fathers in faith not as museum pieces but as organic elements that
help us to grow in and express our faith in a context much different
from theirs.

All of that requires openness to the new and a willingness at times
to let go of the familiar and comfortable. I think it is safe to say
that that is never easy for any of us. But I am convinced that our
earliest diocesan community had no monopoly on qualities like courage
and creativity. My experience tells me that God has given those gifts
to you in generous measure. For that reason I am convinced that we can
be confident about our future.

Peace to all.

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