The world lost a good shepherd last night: the 6th bishop of Brooklyn, Thomas Vose Daily. He died at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens after several years of failing health. He was 89.
Bishop Daily was a frequent visitor to our parish in Queens. He spent his Saturday mornings praying the rosary, often alone, outside a nearby abortion clinic, then stopping by our rectory for coffee and bagels. I had the privilege of assisting at Mass with him several times.
He loved the Lord, loved the liturgy, and loved God’s people.
This was a good and happy priest.
And he found time for everyone. In 1998, my wife and I took part in a Marriage Encounter weekend—and we were pleasantly surprised to see the Bishop of Brooklyn was our priest for the weekend! He could not have been more engaged or engaging (so to speak) and made himself available for counseling and confession at all hours.
He began his priesthood serving as a missionary in Peru—long before it was fashionable, he “smelled like the sheep.” In 1990, when he was appointed to Brooklyn, he was profiled in The New York Times:
When it came time for Bishop Thomas V. Daily to sum up the spirit he hopes will guide his actions as the newly appointed leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the familiar prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, ”Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Addressing a news conference at the chancery office in Brooklyn, he read through the phrases about sowing love where there is hatred, and seeking to understand rather than to be understood. He concluded, ”Please God, I’m going to operate like that.”
”I hate tags,” Bishop Daily said regarding his theological outlook, but he nonetheless acknowledged the conservatism that became evident as he fielded questions about abortion, AIDS, homosexuality and the obligations of Catholic politicians.
Bishop Daily, the Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla. for five and a half years, is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, a group formed to counter what some Catholic academics feel is the undue liberalism of contemporary Catholic thinkers. He is also a close associate of Mother Angelica, the Catholic television evangelist whose broadcasts have rejected as unorthodox programs featuring staff members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
”I think that the church is big enough to hear every voice – and should,” he said of Mother Angelica and the groups.
But beyond saying that official church teaching was ”a tremendous safeguard” and ”I’ll be coming from what the church teaches,” Bishop Daily shrugged off any claims to academic credentials or scholarship.
”I look upon myself as a pastoral person,” Bishop Daily said repeatedly, describing his love for working directly with people.
His chief priority, he said, would be ”service and love of the poor.” Bishop Daily is one of the bishops who have guided the Campaign for Human Development, a national Catholic program to promote grass-roots anti-poverty efforts. Staff members of the campaign speak highly of Bishop Daily’s work on behalf of the poor at both the national level and in Palm Beach.
Personally, my favorite memory was from Christmas 2007. I had served my first Midnight Mass as a deacon. My wife and I left early Christmas morning to take the Delta shuttle to Washington, DC, to spend the day with our families. We arrived at LaGuardia around 8 a.m. The terminal was deserted. In fact, there was only one other person at the far end of the waiting area: Bishop Daily. He was taking the shuttle to Boston to visit his family.
We went over to said hello and wish him a Merry Christmas. He was delighted to see us. I told him I had just assisted at my first Midnight Mass, and even got to preach the homily. He beamed. “Did you?,” he boomed in that big Boston accent. “Did you make ’em cry?”
God love you, bishop. May angels lead you home.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
Photos: Niranjan Fernando