Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bishop John D'Arcy: A Witness to His Steadfast Love

Fourteen years before I was born, Fr. John D'Arcy was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Boston and was assigned to St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Beverly, Massachusetts.  Thirty-five years after Fr. D'Arcy left St. Mary's, I was assigned there as a priest.  From my very first days in the parish until now, I have heard constant reminders of how wonderful Fr. D'Arcy was.  "Fr. D'Arcy helped our family when my father died."  "Fr. D'Arcy was the spiritual director of the drum and bugle corps and took great care of us."  "Fr. D'Arcy instructed me in the Faith and received me into the Church."  While priests often have an impact on a parish and the lives of its parishioners, it is rare in my experience to have so many people four decades later talking about a particular priest with such fondness.

Three years ago, our parish invited Bishop D'Arcy to come and give a parish mission.  It was a glorious week.  Each night, hundreds packed into our parish church to listen to Bishop D'Arcy preach the Gospel.  It was a moment of extraordinary grace.  And it was a moment of grace also for Bishop D'Arcy.  He stayed in the rooms where he lived some fifty years earlier.  He walked the streets of our city, heard confessions, and--despite being ill at the time--gave personal attention to all of those who came to speak with him. 

One thing that was obvious was that Bishop D'Arcy was still Fr. D'Arcy.  He had a strong sense of what it meant to be a bishop.  He said on more than one occasion to me that a bishop has always to remember that he has been given "episcopal grace" and that he should not be afraid to make hard decisions and live with them.  But, he also had a great love and awe of "priestly grace."  He loved being a priest. 

It was also a particularly graced moment for me.  I had been hearing about Fr. D'Arcy for years.  It was a blessing for me to spend those few days with him and watch him once again shepherd the flock of his youth.  At one particular moment during those days, Bishop D'Arcy told me that he was going to go in the church for a few minutes to pray.  Since I was supposed to be seeing him off someplace, I didn't want to miss him.  So, every so often I would go and make certain that I hadn't missed him.  He sat in the church for well over an hour.  Afterwards, he told me that he had sat in that very same spot fifty years ago when he was asked to leave the parish to go to Rome to study.  Bishop D'Arcy was a man of prayer.

St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Beverly was the only parish to which Bishop D'Arcy was ever assigned.  As such, the people here feel a particular bond to him and they mourn his loss.  But, his beautiful priestly example provides comfort to all of those who mourn today.  Bishop D'Arcy's whole life exemplified to others what he himself chose for his episcopal motto: "His Steadfast Love Endures Forever."  To those who have no faith, death appears to bring an end to everything.  But Bishop John D'Arcy knew otherwise.  He now enters more completely into the Trinitarian Communion and by God's mercy will eternally sing, "His Steadfast Love Endures Forever."

1 comment:

  1. The parishioners' fondness for Father D'Arcy was also evident a few years earlier, in July of 2007, when Bishop D'Arcy celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination at a special Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea. People stood in line in the hot sun for a few hours just to say hello and share a few words and memories with him. I have photos from that day if you are interested...