It is very challenging to just focus on a few memories and testimonials about Uncle Matt. There is a lifetime of them. I think all of you must know that I think Uncle Matt is the greatest thing since sliced bread, next to my Mom and Dad! Uncle Matt has been my oldest pal for 44 years now — and counting! That is always something we have joked about and signed letters that way through the years. I can still remember signing letters “your oldest pal for 22 years.” Forty-four years has sure gone by fast!
Two childhood memories that I’m sure all of my sisters can appreciate, and think about fondly, are the summers when Uncle Matt would come home from Rome, Italy. In those days we could go right to the airport gate to wait for him. It wasn’t just a trip to the airport; it was one of the most exciting events of our summers each year! Our whole family of seven would go to the airport and my Dad would take us up to the observation deck so we could watch all the planes taking off and landing. Then Uncle Matt’s plane would arrive and I remember seeing that plane and thinking it was the biggest plane I had ever seen. It looked like there were thousands of people getting off the plane. My sisters and I would be jumping up and down with excitement when we finally saw him getting off the plane and we would all just run and hug him. It was always such an exciting time.
The other childhood memory is Uncle Matt throwing us in the pool. He would throw us high up in the air from the shallow end to the deep end for what seemed like hours. It was just a thrill.
There are just so many fun times and great experiences I could write about, but I’ll try to limit it to just a few special highlights for me as an adult.
Uncle Matt has given me opportunities that I could have never dreamed of. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to take seven trips with Uncle Matt to South America to visit the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brazil and the Sisters of Mercy in Chile. Words cannot describe the poverty and conditions we saw. We were in places no tourists would ever dare to go. Yet, it was exciting, humbling and enriching all the same. The people that the sisters were there to help were so thrilled that people came to visit them, especially “Dom Mateo” as they most fondly referred to Uncle Matt.
The sisters do remarkable and unbelievable work in these countries to give the oppressed people a voice; to educate them about hygiene, nutrition, growing food properly; help them organize; and give them encouragement, hope and love. I have a great admiration for the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sisters of Mercy who have spent time working as missionaries in those countries. That cannot be an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. They all do the work with love in their hearts. It was an honor and a pleasure to be among them and see all the good work that they do on all of the South American trips.
I have always tried to visit Uncle Matt as often as possible through these last 33 years he has lived in Rochester. I remember when I was 11 and we were told the news that Uncle Matt was going to be installed as the Bishop of Rochester. My first question was could I ride my bicycle there.
Uncle Matt is one of those special kinds of friends that you just love to be around, even if you are not having a conversation or doing anything at all. It just feels good to be around him. He is a peaceful person and he also has a great sense of humor.
Of course, Uncle Matt has always been there when times have been a struggle too. He has a gift and a talent for being a great listener. He always seemed to be able to let me figure out what course of action was the right one for me. Uncle Matt was especially encouraging to me through my college years, and I will always be grateful to him for that.
My grandmother, Grace Clark, used to go by train to visit Uncle Matt during Holy Week and at Christmastime. When she died in 1995 I wanted to continue that tradition. I think I missed one year, but other than that, I was able to take the train out and have the pleasure of being at Sacred Heart Cathedral to be a part of Uncle Matt celebrating Midnight Mass for Christmas. That has truly been a great experience for me.
On Christmas morning we would go the Monroe County Jail so Uncle Matt could celebrate Christmas Mass with the inmates, which he has done every Christmas morning since he was named the Bishop of Rochester. That was always quite a different experience from the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, but yet also an enriching experience in a very different way. It was a very humbling and sometimes very sad experience to be with people who are not able to be with their families on Christmas and to hear some of their heartbreaking experiences. Some of the Sisters of St. Joseph would also be there to be supportive and to sing. I know people have differing views about people who are incarcerated, but nonetheless, they are human beings too.
Uncle Matt has made so many really super and terrific friends since he moved to Rochester more than 33 years ago. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many of them through the years and getting to know some of them, too.
The Diocese of Rochester has been blessed with one of the most talented and gifted people this world has ever known to be their leader for the last 33 years. Uncle Matt deserves a peaceful and very happy retirement. He has worked so hard for so many years. He has made a lasting, powerful and influential impression on all those whose lives he has touched. He has had to make some very difficult decisions through the years in his role. He, too, has a boss, just like most of us. Uncle Matt has done a great job. He is a great leader! As your niece Kathleen would say, “ROCK ON UNCLE MATT!” I love you!