In August, Bishop Clark shared that he has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. He was stunned to hear the news as I was as well. Bishop Clark shared that Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that cannot be reversed or retarded. But that some can remain in the early stage for quite some time. The doctors advise plenty of sleep, a healthy diet, exercise and socializing as much as possible. Bishop Clark intends to remain active in ministry as long as his health allows and he asks for our continued prayers and support in the days and months ahead. May we pray for Bishop Clark and for all those who suffer with Alzheimer’s, for their caregivers and for all those medical professionals and organizations working to enhance care and treatment of the disease.
I personally have known Bishop Clark all of my priesthood. He was the Bishop who ordained me to the Deaconate on October 4, 1980 and to the Priesthood on April 30, 1982. I have vivid memories of those event and many other shared experiences through the years. When I was ordained a deacon at Sacred Heart Cathedral I remember laying side by side prostrate on the floor in the sanctuary with the other men being ordained. A photographer took a picture of us; in the picture Bishop Clark is positioned standing at his Chair in the Cathedral looking over us as the Litany of Saints was sung. For me that picture is a reminder that Bishop Clark has prayerful looked over me and all those he ordained to ministry through the years. I am ever grateful to God for allowing me to serve under him as my Bishop.
The first time I met Bishop Clark was when I was in the seminary. I was working during the summer recess doing maintenance work at St. Bernard Seminary. He cordially introduced himself to me on a visit there and I shared that I was a seminarian for the diocese. During the summer I saw him a few more times and was impressed that he remembered my name. In the fall when classes started I ran into him again as he was entering the doorway of the seminary. I said hello to him but this time he didn’t seem to recognize me. I shared with him again my name and he responded, “Oh I am sorry I didn’t recognize you without a screwdriver in your hand.” My first thought was why did he say that! I’m a beer drinker, I never drink Screwdrivers! The Bishop must have seen the puzzled look on my face because he quickly gave clarity to his remark by saying this is the first time I have seen you as a student, I’ve always seen you doing maintenance work.
Another experience I remember was when Bishop Clark interviewed me before my first priesthood assignment. He knew I was from Oneonta, and he asked me if I remembered Sister Matthew Marie at St. Mary’s School. I said yes she was my fourth grade teacher. The Bishop informed me that she was his sister! I always remember Sister telling us she had a brother in the seminary in Rome. Little did I know that one day he would be my bishop! One gift that he sent us from Rome through his sister was a prayer card of the newly elected pope, Pope John XXIII. Each of the 48 students in our class received one.
I pray that Bishop Clark will receive many blessings as he journeys through this new stage of his life. May he always know the love of God and the love of the people he was called to serve.
God’s blessings and peace, Father Bill