The following interfaith leaders, local dignitaries and public servants, diocesan priests and staff, educators and others responded to our call for tributes to Bishop Clark:
The entire St. John Fisher College community joins me in congratulating Bishop Matthew H. Clark on his 50th anniversary of ordination and his 33 years of leadership of the Diocese of Rochester. During his tenure, Bishop Clark has been both a spiritual leader and a true friend and supporter of the college. He will be sorely missed, but I am confident that his influence in the Rochester community will be felt for years to come. We wish the bishop all the best for a well-earned and blessed retirement.
— Donald E. Bain, PhD, president, St. John Fisher College
I deeply appreciate the leadership, friendship and support I have received from Bishop Clark in my 20 years working with the diocese. Through his leadership, Catholic Charities has grown from having formal organization as presence in 1979 only in Monroe County and at Camp Stella Maris to an organization which has physical presence in all 12 counties of the diocese and serves 250,000 people annually.
— Jack Balinsky, director of diocesan Catholic Charities
It is almost twenty-nine years since Bishop Clark ordained me to the priesthood.
I can not be more grateful for his faith, prayer, direction, guidance and belief in me that humbly I might have gifts to offer the people of our beloved diocese.
Bishop Clark’s shepherding has blessed me with a life giving and loving vocation.
He’ll be forever in my heart!
— Father Robert Bourcy, pastor, St. Catherine of Siena, Mendon
I want to thank Bishop Matthew H. Clark for his unwavering leadership and dedication to the Diocese of Rochester during the past 33 years and for his many contributions to our community. As we move forward and continue to strengthen our faith as individuals, it is my sincere hope that the Catholic diocese will lead by example with its rich legacy of caring for our community’s residents and families. I congratulate Bishop Clark and wish him the best of luck as he begins his retirement.
— Maggie Brooks, Monroe County executive
Being a bishop is a difficult task because one has to be both a leader and the center of unity for the local church community. Bishop Clark’s deep personal spirituality and his empathy for and ability to listen to others have made him an outstanding bishop despite all the problems and frustrations of the office.
— Father Charles Curran, diocesan priest and professor at Southern Methodist University, Dallas
He was always so gracious, kind and welcoming, that’s what I remember most. He became bishop while I was on a leave of absence, and during recovery from major surgery in 1984, Matt called to assure me of his prayerful good wishes. It was a wonderfully surprising call — a true blessing. Owing to all the tubes, I couldn’t make much of a response. A few years later, Matt called again in response to my request to begin the process of return to active ministry. Assuring his full support, he said he would do whatever he could — some months later I was assigned to a parish on Long Island. Matt also made sure I knew how welcome I would be to return to ministry in our diocese. I will always cherish his reference to his happiness at my being back at the priests’ convocation in 1990. From then until my retirement in 2011 he continued to support and encourage me in ministry — to say nothing of how his leadership and priesthood inspired.
— Father William Donnelly, retired diocesan priest
I am honored to write in celebration of Bishop Clark on this special occasion.
During his tenure, the Jewish and Roman Catholic communities in Rochester signed a joint agreement of understanding, the first of its kind in the world. We have traveled together to Israel and to Rome.
The bishop’s openness, sensitivity and kindness have allowed us to journey here at home, as well, to new levels of partnership and cooperation.
In our tradition it is said that “words that come from the heart, enter the heart.” The bishop’s words have moved us all.
— Larry Fine, executive director, Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester
Since 1979, Bishop Matthew H. Clark has exhibited the kindest hospitality and encouragement to the Society of Jesus and to our apostolate, McQuaid Jesuit. Throughout his episcopacy, the Jesuits have experienced in Bishop Clark a concerned and loving man interested in our welfare and spiritual growth. Bishop Clark’s continued presence at school liturgies, graduations and at other momentous events in our history has meant so much to the Jesuit Provincials and to all the Jesuits who have served at McQuaid Jesuit over these years.
The Sons of Ignatius thank you, Bishop Clark!
— Father Brian Frain, SJ, superior, Society of Jesus at McQuaid Jesuit School
A visionary and compassionate leader at all times, Bishop Clark has supported the many initiatives of the Parish and Clergy Services department. His genuine dialogue with the ecumenical, interfaith and cultural groups strengthened the bonds of friendship within our diverse community. His spirituality enriched us all and I am forever grateful for his leadership.
— Bernard Grizard, diocesan director, Parish and Clergy Services
Soon after Matt arrived, it was evident I needed help for alcoholism and more. My pastor strongly suggested a special new place. Matt said fine. My last drink was March 2, 1980. A month later left temporal epilepsy was discovered. I have been on medicine since then. Bishop Matthew welcomed me back and to serve at Sacred Heart. When I was pastor outside of Monroe County I was welcomed back to stay overnight at Sacred Heart and often had a morning Mass there. In my late 60s Raynaud’s disease was very painful. Bishop Matt allowed me to go South before the age of 70. Each year since then he has found the time to see me when I returned on vacation. This year he shared retreat places as I expressed the need and desire for more prayer.
— Father Gerard Hafner, retired diocesan priest
I have long worked with Bishop Clark on a number of social-justice issues. One of his most meaningful acts was to host one of my inauguration events in 1994 at Sacred Heart, ushering in a new era of ecumenical partnership with the diocese and City Hall.
We had one painful disagreement: the split that occurred at Corpus Christi Church. Even in siding with the parishioners, I maintained tremendous respect for him personally. That admiration has only deepened in the intervening years.
Bishop, life can be very good after retirement. You will be presented immense opportunities. Choose wisely and live well.
— Bill Johnson, former mayor of Rochester
On behalf of the thousands of individuals and families who have found refuge in affordable housing developed and managed by Providence Housing, our deepest gratitude for your vision and leadership to create within your diocese the aspiration that all of our neighbors have a place to call home.
— Monica C. McCullough, executive director, Providence Housing Development Corp.
I had the privilege of sharing home life with Bishop Clark for 18 years at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He was great to live with and fun around the house. He even baby-sat for my nephew a couple of times when I was called for a hospital emergency. There are so many happy memories I will not forget and I treasure.
— Father Thomas Mull, pastor, St. Benedict Parish, Canandaigua/East Bloomfield
Bishop Clark has shown great leadership in the financial stewardship of the Diocese of Rochester. With thoughtfulness, insight and courage, he’s been willing to make tough decisions, always mindful of the need to balance ministerial needs with practical financial considerations. As a result, the Diocese of Rochester is in excellent fiscal condition and able to provide the many services that fulfill our mission.
— Lisa Passero, chief financial officer, Diocese of Rochester
Thank you, Bishop Matthew, for the kindness, support and leadership you have given to the people of the diocese for 33-plus years. My hope and prayer is that you will continue to be that model of gentle compassion for many years ahead.
— Barbara Pedeville, director of management and staff services, Diocese of Rochester
Bishop Clark, we have been blessed by having you as our spiritual leader. You have been a truly humble shepherd of the people in our diocese while exhibiting cheerful and steadfast leadership. In many ways, you have shown us how to be more mindful of others than ourselves and how to live out our Catholic faith in a deeper way.
The mandate you received at your ordination as bishop called for you to witness the truth of the Gospel and to attend to your whole flock as teacher, priest and shepherd. You have been faithful to this mandate and we thank you for superb spiritual leadership.
— Ellen Polimeni, mayor of Canandaigua
Bishop Clark has always appreciated the work of women religious in the diocese. He calls us by name, is interested in who we are and what we do. He continues to walk with us in difficult times providing personal and congregational support. We are grateful for his interest, support and encouragement.
— Sister Pat Prinzing, RSM, vice president, Sisters of Mercy of New York, Pennsylvania, Pacific West Community
I grew up in a church characterized by the phrases “thou shalt not” and “thou must.” The model of authority dominating the church of my youth bore little resemblance to the exercise of authority described by the Second Vatican Council. My experience of Bishop Clark’s leadership is symbolized by the phrase, “I would invite you to … .” I have heard him use that phrase countless times. His greatest gift to us may be the collegial style of governance that he has fostered, in which the bishop’s exercise of authority has been an instrument of communion rather than dominance or control. Like the council, Bishop Clark envisions the whole body of believers moving toward deeper relationship with God through a church shaped by the participation of all of us.
— Sister Patricia Schoelles, president, St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry
Under Bishop Clark’s leadership, I have served as the director of our ministry to priests, the spiritual director and the director of Becket Hall, and most recently as the diocesan director of seminarians. I am humbled and grateful for Bishop Matthew’s deep spirituality, his approachability and encouragement to the priests and seminarians of the diocese, his sense of humor, and his love for the priesthood and the priests and the seminarians of the diocese. Thank you, Bishop Matthew.
— Father James Schwartz, pastor, St. Joseph, Penfield
I have known Bishop Clark for the last 22 years of my stay in Rochester. Representing the Islamic Center, I was with the bishop in press conferences, interfaith leadership dialogue, at a dinner table and several other occasions talking and discussing issues of interfaith relations, social justice and other community affairs.
The bishop built cordial relation with the Jewish community. Rochester Jewish and Catholic communities were the first in the nation to have signed an agreement of understanding and cooperation. Similarly the bishop instructed the Catholic leaders to reach out to the Muslim community and an agreement was signed in 2003.
The bishop embraces religious pluralism and respect for all faiths. He has been honored several times by different faith organizations for his services to interfaith dialogue. He is humble, a man of compassion and committed to religious understanding and cooperation. Representing Muslims in interfaith dialogue, wherever I go and meet Catholic bishops in American cities, all say with one voice: You have a wonderful bishop. He is unique and open to dialogue with other faiths. We will miss his leadership upon his retirement, but his legacy of good work will continue to inspire the generation to come. I wish him a pleasant and spiritually fulfilled retirement with healthy and fruitful life.
— Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, Imam, Islamic Center of Rochester
I remember like it was yesterday the Democrat and Chronicle picture of you running down East Avenue 33 short years ago! You are still running today, albeit in a very different way. Your love and commitment to the Diocese of Rochester has been remarkable. Your desire to hold every member of your congregation close to your heart has meant the world to so many. Thank you for always caring deeply about our children and their families. You have been a stellar, kind, loving role model for our students. Thank you for who you are and for what you have given of your talent and spirit for the children and families of the Diocese of Rochester.
— Anne Willkens Leach, diocesan superintendent of schoolsTags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark