By AMANDA GRAY and TOM MOOR
7:56 AM EST, February 4, 2013
Despite deteriorating health, Bishop Emeritus John M. DArcy preached the word of God right up to the end.
During a mass held last week by the Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades at DArcy's Fort Wayne home, DArcy -- confined to a wheelchair -- began preaching unexpectedly in the middle of the service.
Rhoades said it was a testament to DArcy's faith.
Rhoades said DArcy was also adamant last week that he live to Sunday -- the 56th anniversary of his first mass as an ordained priest.
Knowing Bishop DArcy, the Lord will listen to him, and sure enough he did, Rhoades said.
DArcy, bishop emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, died on Sunday morning at his home surrounded by loved ones, according to a statement from the diocese. He was 80.
DArcy led the diocese from 1985 to Jan. 2010, when he retired. He was succeeded by current Bishop Rhoades, who spoke fondly of DArcy shortly after attending a confirmation Sunday night at Saint Marys College.
DArcy announced Jan. 2 that he was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer while home visiting relatives in the Boston area over the holidays. He was also diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2011.
He will leave a tremendous legacy of faith, Rhoades said. He was very active in retirement the past three years. He loved the people of the diocese with all his heart and serviced them to the end. He was a man of deep faith and trust in the Lord. He died as he lived -- with deep faith.
I just hope I can be half as good of a bishop as he was.
News of DArcy's passing left a void for the countless who admired him.
Msgr. Michael Heintz, pastor at St. Matthews Cathedral in South Bend, said DArcy will leave a lasting legacy.
He was a totally devoted pastor, he said. He was a strong leader. He genuinely loves the people here, and he poured his life into them.
He was thoroughly devoted to Catholic education. He worked very hard to strengthen the Catholic schools and education. He was devoted to getting the students educated in the faith.
DArcy was born Aug. 18, 1932. He grew up in Brighton, Mass., the son of Irish immigrants, and he studied journalism and law before deciding on joining the priesthood. Before his time in Indiana, DArcy served as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston.
He began his time in Indiana at the age of 52, when he was named bishop of one of Indianas five Catholic dioceses, containing 14 counties and around 160,000 Catholics.
DArcy's time at the helm of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese was not always easy. Just after arriving in 1985, he made the decision to close Huntington Catholic High School after its enrollment dwindled to 55 students, according to a Tribune article. Throughout his time, DArcy had to make the difficult decisions, as he classified them in multiple interviews, to close or combine parishes and schools.
He acknowledged his unwavering style in a 2010 interview, saying: I have no regret, and what I have done is what God wanted me to do. I believe in putting faith into action and have never shied away from hard choices and controversial stances. As I said before, I leave with no regrets.
As a bishop, he said, I have tried to help care for souls, have preached the Gospel and I have done what God wanted me to do.
He led the diocese while Jody Martinez, then-basketball coach for St. Joseph High School, was fired for leaving his Catholic faith in April 1996.
However, he was also present for much joy with the diocese, seeing it through its 150th year celebration during 2007. The same year marked DArcy's 50th year as a priest.
He oversaw the diocese as it initiated the first televised Mass for South Bend and Fort Wayne, and he helped expand services for Hispanic Catholics in the diocese, even ordaining the dioceses first Mexican-born priest in 2009.
DArcy was sympathetic to the plight of immigrants.
In 2006, he wrote to Indiana lawmakers in Congress, urging them to reject an an overly punitive approach to immigration reform. And he expressed concerns over legislation at that time that would have criminalized the churchs assistance to undocumented immigrants.
One of DArcy's largest undertakings as bishop was the fundraising for the new St. Joseph High School. As reported by the Tribune in 2011, DArcy set a goal in 2009 of $35.5 million by the end of June 2011 to build the school -- a seemingly improbable feat which has now been seen to completion.
DArcy was also outspoken against child abuse by priests through his lifetime. In 2003, he disclosed that 16 priests in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese had abused 33 children since 1950 -- actions that ultimately cost the diocese more than $1.36 million in damages, according to a 2010 Tribune article.
DArcy said in a 2003 press conference that he decided to publicly announce the numbers because there has been too much secrecy nationally.
In fact, it was not the first time DArcy spoke up about the abuse -- letters from DArcy to Catholic bishops as early as 1978 concerning abuse allegations have surfaced. While some have said DArcy was sent to Indiana from Boston because of his frankness about the abuse, DArcy always remained silent on the subject, according to Tribune articles.
DArcy was also one of the loudest voices against the invitation of President Barack Obama to speak and receive an honorary degree at the 2009 commencement ceremony at the University of Notre Dame. He stated he did not support the University giving Obama any honors based on his position on abortion.
DArcy did not attend the 2009 commencement, though he did release a statement urging people to stay away from campus protests.
It was not the first time he disagreed with the actions of University President Fr. John Jenkins -- a 2006 discussion of the performance of The Vagina Monologues on campus left DArcy and Jenkins at opposite opinions, though DArcy elected to attend the 2006 commencement exercises.
Disagreements with political leaders was not limited to just Obama, either. DArcy directed the leadership of St. Joseph High School to withdraw the invitation of then-Gov. Joe Kernan to speak at the 2004 commencement ceremony, citing Kernans stance on abortion.
He also didnt attend the 1992 Notre Dame commencement ceremony because Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, that years Laetare Medal recipient, had a pro-choice stance.
In addition to his strong faith, he was a sports enthusiast with a love for the Boston Red Sox. At an event in 2009 to mark his retirement, he joked that in every joyful occasion there is a cross, and in this case, his successor Rhoades was a New York Yankees fan.
After his retirement, DArcy didnt return to his home of Boston. He remained in Fort Wayne.
In a 2007 interview, he said Indiana had become his home after 22 years as bishop.
The priesthood has been an extraordinary gift, DArcy said in a 2007 interview. Ive never had a moment of regret. I think its a beautiful life if its a life of love for Christ and for the people.
I think its a great adventure.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Staff writer Joseph Dits contributed to this report.
Staff writer Amanda Gray:
Aug. 18, 1932: Born to Margaret Mary and Michael J. DArcy in Boston.
Feb. 2, 1957: Ordained a priest for Archdiocese of Boston.
1968: Received doctorate in spiritual theology from the Angelicum, Rome.
February 1975: Ordained an auxiliary bishop of Boston and appointed vicar for spiritual development for the archdiocese.
July 21, 1981: Appointed bishop of the northern area of Boston archdiocese.
April 1985: Takes possession of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend at St. Matthew Cathedral, South Bend.
May 1, 1985: Installed as eighth bishop of the diocese in ceremonies at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
January 1986: Increases attention to individual parishes in diocese by appointing six regional vicars.
October 1986: Announces plans for chancery office and chapel in downtown South Bend, which open in 1988.
1987: First of what is to become an annual diocesan Bishops appeal raises $4 million.
1988: Resurrects school board to advise bishop on educational policy for dioceses then 46 schools.
April 1996: Asks Jody Martinez to resign as a teacher and basketball coach at St. Josephs High School, South Bend.
February 2004: Receives favorable mention in a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, on the sex abuse scandal in Boston Archdiocese, related to his work as auxiliary bishop in the Boston archdiocese in the early 1980s.
April 2004: Directs St. Josephs High School in South Bend to withdraw its commencement-speaking invitation to Gov. Joe Kernan because of Kernans policy statements on abortion.
April 2006: Criticizes the University of Notre Dame presidents decision to allow The Vagina Monologues to continue to be performed on campus.
April 2009: Criticizes the University of Notre Dame presidents justification for inviting President Barack Obama to deliver Notre Dames commencement address and receive an honorary degree.
November 2009: Announces fundraising campaign for new St. Josephs High School in South Bend.
January 2010: Retired from diocese.
2011: Diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.
Dec. 30, 2012: Diagnosed with lung and brain cancer, while visiting family in Boston.
Jan. 23: Returned to Fort Wayne to begin palliative care.
Feb. 3: Passed away during the late morning hours at his home.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
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