The Fort Wayne area lost a respected and beloved leader with the death Sunday morning of the Rev. John Michael D’Arcy, area religious leaders said.
The retired bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, D’Arcy, a man known for his love of his Roman Catholic faith and his flock, reached out to all Christians, said the Rev. Vernon Graham of Fort Wayne, retired executive pastor of Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County.
“I really think John D’Arcy was for many years the bishop of the whole city,” said Graham, a Lutheran pastor.
“He brought people together from all religious backgrounds. He set a spirit and mood for our community, a spirit of goodness, of reaching out and working on behalf of the poor.”
One of D’Arcy’s most widely remembered acts came after a fire destroyed the historic St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Fort Wayne in 1993, Graham said.
The bishop vowed to rebuild the church with a state-of-the-art soup kitchen to continue to serve the hungry and homeless. The ministry continues to this day.
“He was comfortable with all people. … If it was the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich, he could share a moment with them with grace and dignity,” Graham said.
“In the end, I’m proud to call him friend and that we were disciples together for the Gospel.”
Vince LaBarbera, retired diocesan spokesman, said D’Arcy could light up a room.
“He could walk into a room, any room, and he seemed to know everyone there, and they knew him and wanted to stop and say hello to him,” he said.
With a formidable and well-educated intellect, D’Arcy was strong-willed but “fair-minded,” LaBarbera said of his former boss. “You couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes.”
While sad at D’Arcy’s passing, LaBarbera said he was glad the prelate got to come back to Fort Wayne for his last days. “He had quite an attachment to this diocese. He always thought that a bishop should stay with his diocese,” he said.
In recent weeks, D’Arcy had said he was looking forward to seeing his parents again in heaven, LaBarbera said, and he was grateful for the thousands of prayers from parishioners.
“In the last few weeks, he taught us how to die,” he said. “It was a great thing.”