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Bishop Joseph Patrick McFadden of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Dies Unexpectedly

By Deacon Keith Fournier
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It is always encouraging to me to hear a priest speak of his Bishop with respect and affection, like Fr Paul did of Bishop Joseph McFadden. It reminds me of what I believe is the most important character trait among the many vital and important aspects of the calling of a Diocesan Bishop. That is to be a spiritual father to the priests and deacons under his care.

HARRISBURG, PA (Catholic Online) - The sudden death of the tenth Bishop of Harrisburg, Joseph Patrick McFadden shocked not only the faithful of the Diocese he cared for but many others who also held him in such high esteem. It is a great loss.  

The Bishop had been meeting with his brother Bishops from Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in a regularly scheduled gathering. There was no indication he was suffering from any health problems. Reports indicate that he awakened on Tuesday morning, May 2, 2013 at the rectory where he was staying as a guest. He was feeling quite ill.

Shortly thereafter, he was taken to a hospital and promounced dead at 7:40 AM on Tuesday morning, May 2, 2013. The shock of this loss has shaken the faithful. The Bishop was only 65 years old. He had only served as the ordinary for the Diocese of Harrisburg for three years. However, he was deeply loved by the Lord's people of that little portion of His Church. The outcry from the faithful and the numerous gatherings for prayer, testify to that fact.

Prior to his Episcopal service in Harrisburg, he served as an auxiliary Bishop in Philadelphia. He was consecrated as a Bishop in June of 2004. He was appointed by His Holiness Benedict XVI to give oversight to the faithful of the Diocese of Harrisburg on June 22, 2010 and installed in that office on Aug. 18, 2010.

The Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is now being overseen by what is called a College of Consultors. They have eight days to elect an administrator who will provide oversight until a new Bishop is chosen by Pope Francis.

I did not know Bishop Joseph McFadden. However, a very dear friend of mine of several decades, and a Pro-Life Champion, Fr Paul Schenck, serves as a priest of the Harrisburg Diocese. He is assigned to a parish as well as serving as the Director of the Respect Life Office.

Fr. Paul always spoke of the late Bishop as "my Bishop" in our conversations. He did so with such affection, warmth and respect that it inspired me. In fact, the moment I heard the news of this shocking death I called Fr. Paul. His reaction affirmed once again that Bishop Joseph McFadden was a Bishop who knew how to Bishop.

I have served as a deacon of the Catholic Church for seventeen years. In that time I have worked with many priests. In fact, several of my closest friends are priests. The priest's relationship with his Bishop is so crucial. When it is not solid and pastoral, it undermines their well being, causes them great sadness and impedes their effective and fruitful priestly ministry.

I believe that the lack of personal and pastoral care from a Bishop can affect not only priests but deacons, religious in the Diocese and the lay faithful. The Bishop is the Shepherd of the flock; much more than simply an administrator. When the Bishop understands and lives this charism of his office the flock under his care flourishes. The faithful, in every state and vocation, can exercise their vital ministry to God's people in freedom and joy. The Church shines with the joy of the Risen Christ.

It is always encouraging to me to hear a priest speak of his Bishop with respect and affection, like Fr Paul did of Bishop Joseph McFadden. It reminds me of what I believe is the most important character trait among the many vital and important aspects of the calling of a Diocesan Bishop. That is to be a spiritual father to the priests and deacons under his care.

The great Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, on the Anniversary of his own Episcopal ordination uttered these words in a sermon:   "I am fearful of what I am for you, but I draw strength from what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, and with you I am a Christian. The former designates an office received, the latter the foundation of salvation."

The body of the late Bishop Joseph Patrick McFadden will arrive at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Sunday. There will be a Vespers Service for the faithful at 7 p.m. His body will lay in state at St. Patrick until Tuesday afternoon, May 7, 2013.

Then it will be moved to the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. A funeral Mass of the Resurrection will be held on Wednesday, May 10, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.   Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Requiéscant in pace. Amen.

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