Yesterday the Diocese of Gaylord received news that Bishop Emeritus Patrick Cooney had passed away. My prayers go out to Bishop Cooney and his family.
Our current Bishop Bernard Hebda had this to say about Bishop Cooney...
“Bishop Patrick Cooney was a great servant of the Church and a true father to the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord,” stated Bishop Bernard A. Hebda. “He will be remembered as a shepherd who loved his flock, admired his fellow priests, and selflessly poured himself out for the good of this local Church.
“His trust in Divine Providence and love of the Church’s liturgy will always inspire me,” Bishop Hebda added. “Wherever I go in the Diocese, there are men and women who can attest to his extraordinary kindness. He was a bishop of deep faith and a generous heart who freely used his God-given gifts for the good of the Church.”
I have two memories of Bishop Cooney that stand out in my life as a Catholic. The first is when I was entering the church during the Easter Season of 2001. I remember the excitement of getting to go to the Cathedral in Gaylord for the Rites of Sending and Election before my confirmation. I remember being nervous about meeting the Bishop, but I also remember how nice and kind he was. I don't remember exactly what he said to all of us that day, but the joy he showed as we were getting closer to entering the Catholic Church was obvious. Whether at work, with family or friends, or shopping at the mall, the joy of our Catholic faith should be obvious to those around us, like Bishop Cooney showed us that day.
My second memory is from a homily he gave at a local parish. I don't remember exactly what year it was, but I remember the topic, Abortion and Life. The joy I had seen on his face upon meeting him was replaced by a passion for defending life and everyone's right to life. He talked about our duties as Catholics in defending life - all life - and he was letting us know the Church's position on abortion. I had never remembered anyone talking about this topic before, laying it out for all of us to easily understand. I was in the back of the church holding one of our children at the time and it is really the only time I have seen people leave during Mass. He spoke with a strength and confidence that really made you think about this topic and challenged yourself to defend it like we are supposed to. It made me learn more about what it meant to be Pro-Life and that it was a topic I needed to take seriously. I remember it as the first day I started thinking of the right to life as an important part of my Catholic faith instead of it just being one of a number of issues in our country.
So I have much to be thankful for and have been blessed to be a Catholic in the Diocese of Gaylord led by Bishop Cooney. I'll keep praying my weekly rosary for his soul and pray that he rests in peace.
The Diocese of Gaylord has more information here.
Photo from the Diocese of Gaylord.