St. Paul writes, “In all our prayers we thank God, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you bear toward all God’s people.”
This quote, I feel, sums up what Bishop Matthew Clark has meant to me. He is a spiritual, caring, loving person who is deeply committed to the church and the people that God has entrusted to him to serve.
I first began working at the Pastoral Center in 1981 as diocesan director of religious education for eight years followed by another eight years as diocesan director of faith education. Throughout these 16 years Bishop Clark was our bishop. In 2001 the position of the administrator of the Bishop’s Office became available. I thought I had the qualifications and experience for this position but had little idea what it would be like to work directly for and with Bishop Clark. I prayed about it and decided to apply and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. When offered the position I accepted it — a decision I have never regretted.
In the past 11 years I have worked with him through many joyful and difficult times. Through these times he has consistently been a person of faith and integrity, making the hard and not always popular decisions for the good of our local church.
One of the greatest treasures I will take from these years is the opportunity to be with our faith communities as Bishop Clark celebrates with the people. I have been with him as he presides at confirmations, as he celebrates with our youth at the Hands of Christ and diocesan youth conventions, as he welcomes those seeking full communion with the church at the Rites of Election, as he ordains priests and deacons, and occasionally as he presides at funerals, weddings and baptisms.
His love and care for those present at these celebrations and so many others is always visible in how he interacts with all — the young and the old. His special fondness for children of all ages is very evident in the way he goes out of his way to greet them. Many times as we are processing in and out of church I look back and there he is stopped at a pew greeting a child. He loves to ask me: “Guess what this child’s name is?” And from his smile I know that the correct answer is Matthew! But whether it is Matthew or Carlos or Jean or Mary, his affection for the children of our diocese is genuine and leaves a lasting impression with their delighted parents.
I have been the recipient numerous times of his kindness and understanding, too many to mention, but here is an example. Just a few months into my position I was driving with him in his week-old car to a confirmation in Rexville when I hit a deer on Route 390. We stopped at the truck stop in Dansville to check the car, and although there was quite a bit of damage it was drivable. His only concern was that we were not injured — nor was the deer as it ran into the woods.
Bishop Clark has taught me to see the bright side of things that go wrong. He offers encouragement and support and has helped me focus on the present, especially when I get concerned or overwhelmed by all that there is to do.
We both share our love for our families, especially our great-nieces and great-nephews, and delight in telling stories about them. We both enjoy coffee ice cream, cheeseburgers with grilled onions, diet Pepsi and dark chocolate.
But what we have shared the most through these years is our love for the Gospel and how we can witness and share God’s word with the people whom we meet in the course of each day. To me that is his legacy to our diocese — he is a shepherd who deeply loves the church and the people God entrusted to his care and joyfully serves them.
And so I pray that our gracious God may continue to bless Bishop Clark with the gifts of joy, gratitude, good health and peace.
Thank you, Bishop Clark.
Sister Binsack is vice chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester and administrator of the Bishop’s Office.