“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This quotation of St. Francis of Assisi distinctly defines the character of Bishop Matthew H. Clark. To me, Bishop Clark has been a teacher — not one that stands in the front of a classroom using technical terminology, but rather a powerful leader through his example. Bishop Clark’s character and actions consistently convey Christ and preach the Gospel. He has shown me how to be a true servant of the Lord. Over the past few years I have noticed his strong character qualities of love and reassurance, persistence and commitment.
A few years ago my religious-education teacher, Dave Hudzinski, was being ordained as a deacon, and he invited another girl and me from his religious-education class to serve on the altar at his ordination at the cathedral. We were both very honored to do so; however, we became nervous the day of the ordination as we were waiting for the ceremony to begin. Bishop Clark’s quick smile and easygoing, welcoming disposition gave us reassurance and helped to calm our nerves.
Every Good Friday, the Diocese of Rochester participates with a few other Christian denominations in the Ecumenical Walk of the Cross. Each year, this walk guides participants through a different neighborhood in the City of Rochester and, along the way, the Stations of the Cross are prayed at places within that neighborhood where violence had broken out sometime during year or where a church or organization is working to bring peace to the community. Bishop Clark always attends and takes part in this powerful walk. A few years ago, although he was experiencing pain in his hips, he still attended the Ecumenical Walk. Through his persistence to overcome the barrier of his pain so that he could take part in that year’s Ecumenical Walk, I witnessed his high level of commitment to God and all of the participants of the walk.
I have been fortunate enough to attend two National Catholic Youth Conferences (NCYC) with my youth group from the parishes of St. Boniface, Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary’s. We attended NCYC 2009 Christ Reigns and NCYC 2011 Called to Glory, and both times the youths of our diocese were accompanied by Bishop Clark. I remember the sense of amazement I experienced as I watched the seemingly countless number of bishops, priests and deacons file into the stadium on the opening and closing evenings of both NCYC conferences. I always felt very proud to know that Bishop Clark was there, representing our diocese, and I also felt very honored that he would take time out of his busy schedule to spend a few days with the thousands of Catholic teenagers that convened halfway across the country from his home in Rochester.
Seeing him at NCYC was always exciting, and one morning at the 2009 conference, my youth group had a picture taken with him in the lobby of the hotel in which our diocesan group stayed. During the 2011 conference, he participated in a workshop called Bishop’s Roundtable in which small groups of various NCYC pilgrims had the opportunity to ask him questions about their faith and talk to him almost one on one. To me, Bishop Clark’s presence at and participation in NCYC represents his commitment to the youths of our diocese, as well as other young Catholics throughout the United States, and his commitment to the growth of each young person’s individual faith in Jesus.
Through the power of his character and actions, Bishop Clark has taught me how to be a better disciple of Christ and how to reflect God more in my own character and actions. Bishop Clark has a smile that glows and a warm personality that can fill the whole cathedral with joy. I know that this is the power of the Holy Spirit working through him. He has had to make many difficult and unpopular decisions, but from the man of God I have noted him to be, I am sure he made these decisions prayerfully. His services to the Diocese of Rochester have been much appreciated and will be missed.
Kilmartin, 17, is a parishioner of St. Boniface Parish in Rochester.Tags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark