The Rev. John Michael D'Arcy, 80, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, died late Sunday morning at his Fort Wayne residence, succumbing to cancer discovered shortly after Christmas.
D'Arcy served the diocese as its eighth bishop from 1985 to 2010, coming to the position from the Boston Archdiocese, in which he had grown up and where he served as an auxiliary bishop.
The diocese Sunday wrote in a statement that D'Arcy died "surrounded by loved ones" on the 56th anniversary of his first Mass as an ordained priest.
"Bishop D'Arcy faced death as he also lived his life, with deep faith and trust in God," said his successor, the Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, in a statement. "I am filled with deep sadness at the death of a dear friend and brother bishop. We mourn the death of a good shepherd after the heart of Christ who loved the Lord and his people with all his heart."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
D'Arcy was named the eighth bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in 1985 and offered his retirement in 2007, the year he would turn 75. Canon law requires bishops submit their retirement at 75, although the pope can tell a bishop to stay.
He retired in January 2010. Rhoades of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., is installed as the ninth bishop in the diocese's history.
In Boston D'Arcy served as an auxiliary bishop and was in charge of the diocesan spiritual development office, which included recommending priests for placement as pastors. While in Boston, D'Arcy raised red flags over sexual abuse by priests, a scandal that would become public decades later.
Some have said it was the letters D'Arcy wrote to his boss, Cardinal Bernard Law, that led to his transfer to Indiana. D'Arcy always declined to comment on the exact reason for his transfer, but acknowledged that Law wanted to move him.
The letters D'Arcy wrote to Law and other superiors warned of the conduct, such as violence, alcoholism, drug use and sexual abuse, of at least four priests, including John Geoghan. Geoghan was eventually convicted of groping a young boy and slain while in prison. D'Arcy's letters began in July 1978 and continued until his transfer. The letters were uncovered as part of an investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002.
In 2004, D'Arcy was cited by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People as "a voice in the wilderness" for his role in bringing sexual abuse to light in Boston
As the leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, D'Arcy stressed the importance of selecting men who are spiritually mature for the priesthood – men, he said, who would make good husbands.
"The best thing a bishop does for a parish is send them a good priest," he said in 2005, the year he celebrated 20 years with the diocese. "When you've done that, you've helped hundreds or thousands of people."
He also focused strongly on education and worked to raise teacher salaries in Catholic schools and provide financing for schools that served low-income areas of the diocese.
He wanted the schools to be not only academically strong but spiritually strong. He was concerned students were not receiving as strong of a Catholic education as they had in earlier generations, though they certainly had the desire to learn, he said.
"(These students) are more open to Christ than in the past," D'Arcy said in 2005. "I find a great hunger in young people."
D'Arcy also stressed strengthening the faith of his flock. He created a spiritual development office in Fort Wayne to focus on missions, retreats, educational opportunities and other activities to bring people back to Mass.
In his more than two decades as bishop, D'Arcy also oversaw the beginning of a live television Mass for shut-ins and Vincent House, which provides housing for families in need, and established an endowment for the diocese.
His time leading the diocese wasn't without controversy. Not everyone was happy about spending $3.6 million to renovate the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception or his decision to close parishes and schools, including St. Paul's in downtown Fort Wayne, a predominantly Hispanic parish, and Huntington Catholic High School.
His affinity for his hometown never waned nor did his Boston Irish accent. D'Arcy was an avid Boston Red Sox fan, something he called a "lifetime addiction."
It was an addiction that wasn't always easy, he told Journal Gazette columnist Frank Gray in 2004 just before the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
The 1986 World Series was one of those challenging times. The Red Sox were within one out of winning the World Series when a wild pitch let the tying run score and then came the infamous grounder that went between Bill Buckner's legs, letting the winning run score in Game 6. The New York Mets went on to win the final game and take the Series.
D'Arcy went to work the day after that loss and announced he wasn't doing very well that day. Everyone laughed, he said.
Still, he believed in his team. In 2003, he said he didn't think too much of the Curse of the Bambino.
"I'll tell you, there are some moments when I believe in it," D'Arcy said. "But I don't think so. I think we're going to win it in my lifetime – the whole thing."
Just a year later, he got his wish.
- 1932: Born Aug. 18 in Boston to Michael J. and Margaret Moran D'Arcy
- 1949: Graduated from Boston College High School and entered St. John's Seminary, Brighton
- 1957: Ordained a priest on Feb. 2 and begins serving as a parish priest
- 1968: Receives doctorate in spiritual theology from Angelicum University in Rome
- 1968 to 1985: Serves as spiritual director and theology teacher at St. John's Seminary
- 1975: Ordained auxiliary bishop of Archdiocese of Boston and appointed vicar for spiritual development for the archdiocese
- 1978: Releases "Letter on Priestly Formation," produced by a committee of New England bishops chaired by D'Arcy. The document urges reform in how priests are trained and selected; it is later used by the National Board for the Protection of Children and Young People in its report on the sexual abuse situation.
- 1981: Appointed regional bishop for Lowell region of the archdiocese in addition to vicar position
- Mid-1980s: Begins writing letters to then-Archbishop Bernard Law about allegations of sexual abuse by priests
- 1985: Appointed eighth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
- 1986: Initiates live TV Masses
- 1987: Endows the beginning of Vincent House in Fort Wayne, now an ecumenical agency, to develop housing for the homeless and low-income
- 1993: Historic St. Mary's Catholic Church in Fort Wayne burns; vows to rebuild it with "a small chapel and state-of-the-art soup kitchen"
- 1998: Enables Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne to be refurbished for $3.6 million
- 2002: Writes series of columns published in local and diocesan newspapers and in a pamphlet, "Some Pastoral Reflections in a Moment of Crisis" on the sexual abuse within the church
- 2003: Closes St. Paul Catholic Church in Fort Wayne, which is later razed
- 2004: Cited by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People as "a voice in the wilderness" for his role in bringing sexual abuse to light in Boston
- 2004-05: Administers Legacy of Faith campaign, which creates endowments of more than $48.5 million for construction of new Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Shrine in Warsaw and related Hispanic ministries, Catholic Charities services to the poor, schools' endowment fund and improved retirement program for priests.
- 2006: Denounces production of "The Vagina Monologues" at University of Notre Dame
- 2007: Announces yearlong 150th anniversary of the diocese.
- 2010: Retires in January as the Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., is installed as bishop.