FORT WAYNE – Amid pomp and pageantry and words of reassurance to the faithful, clergy from the Fort Wayne-South Bend Roman Catholic Diocese on Friday placed the soul of the Most Rev. John M. D’Arcy in God’s hands.
A nearly two-hour funeral Mass for the diocese’s eighth bishop at Fort Wayne’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception began and ended with trumpet fanfares and the strains of a pipe organ.
Scores of robed priests and visiting bishops walked down the center aisle, while an estimated 1,200 looked on.
The air was heavy with incense as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades bid a final farewell to his 80-year-old predecessor, who served as bishop from 1985 to 2010.
We commend our brother John (to God), with the certain hope that he, with all those who have died in Christ, will one day rise again, he proclaimed as the Mass drew to a close. Open the gates of paradise to your servant and comfort those of us who remain.
Earlier Friday, a steady stream of people wishing to pay last respects to D’Arcy, who died Sunday of cancer, filed by his open casket, much as they did throughout Thursday.
D’Arcy lay in purplish-red vestments trimmed with golden thread, his bishop’s miter on his head and a rosary with turquoise stones wrapped around his folded hands.
Some knelt to pray at his feet and many dabbed their eyes with tissues and touched his hands or face.
A Knights of Columbus honor guard stood by. Shortly after 11:30 a.m., the casket was closed in preparation for the Mass, which began at noon.
The Rev. Michael Heintz, rector of St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, recalled in his homily that D’Arcy had a profound understanding of the office of bishop while being devoid of ambition about that office.
A good conversationalist with a quick Irish wit, the late bishop was genuinely interested in every person he met, Heintz said.
That led D’Arcy to linger at gatherings and played havoc with those who would handle his schedule.
He started every diocesan meeting with the same three words: Sorry, I’m late,’ Heintz said, drawing laughter.
The late bishop had strong views on many subjects but could disagree with someone without becoming disagreeable, Heintz said.
He would sometimes say to me, Mike, you’re wrong on that.’
Yet never have I heard him vilify anyone he disagreed with. The same could not be said of those who disagreed with him.
That D’Arcy chose the diocese to be his final resting place instead of his hometown of Boston is a testament to his love for the people he had served during his life. This was his home, Heintz said.
Diocese officials say D’Arcy will be interred during a private service for family members in the crypt under the Cathedral. The space houses the diocese’s first four bishops.
At the end of the Mass, Rhoades said D’Arcy’s love for his flock, his pastoral care, continued to the end, noting the bishop was still writing him memos six days before he died.
Bishop D’Arcy was truly a man of God, a holy man. May he now receive from his Lord an unfading crown in heaven, said Rhoades, who also read a message of condolence from a Vatican official on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.
After Mass, on the Cathedral steps, Nick Everett, 24, a native of South Bend, who now lives in New Rochelle, N.Y., said he and his wife, Mary Ann, 26, would have never missed D’Arcy’s funeral.
He baptized me and confirmed me and he married us, he said. It was like full circle for us.
His brother Tom Everett, 23, who came back from Detroit, where he’s a middle school teacher, called the Mass beautiful.
It was a testament to him to see how loved he was by the community here, to see how many people came out and how many people were touched by his pastorate, he said.
Ruby Ferroli drove in from Elkhart to attend with Dee Stump, 81, also from Elkhart.
I thought it was glorious, Ferroli said of the funeral.
It was awesome, Stump added.
Asked what she thought of D’Arcy, Ferroli was quick to reply.
He was such a wonderful priest. He was a holy priest. He lived the faith and taught the faith, and he stood up for things that should have been stood up for, she said.
He did a marvelous job.