Retired Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, an educator and author whose work focused on explaining the Catholic faith to wider audiences, died March 22. He was 85.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Archbishop Pilarczyk had been in declining health in recent years. He led the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for 27 years until his retirement Dec. 21, 2009, the day after the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.
Before his appointment as archbishop in 1982, he was auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati for eight years, also serving as director of educational services for the archdiocese.
“Among his brother bishops, Archbishop Pilarczyk was recognized as one of the outstanding churchmen of his time,” Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, his successor, said in a statement. “They elected him not only president of what was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops but also chair of every significant committee of the bishops’ conference.
“His accomplishments on the local level in his tenure as archbishop of Cincinnati were equally outstanding. He unselfishly devoted his entire priesthood to this archdiocese,” Archbishop Schnurr said.
Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the late archbishop a “shepherd close to his flock.”
“The archbishop led during challenging times but sought reconciliation and reform with humility,” Archbishop Gomez said in a statement released by the USCCB March 23. “Archbishop Pilarczyk was generous also in service to his brother bishops. We benefited greatly from his pastoral leadership.”
Retired Bishop Anthony M. Pilla of Cleveland was a seminary classmate of the archbishop beginning in high school in Cincinnati. He described the archbishop as a “loyal and caring friend who was brilliant and yet with a delightful sense of humor.”
Elsewhere, Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory tweeted about his “dear friend and mentor,” lamenting that the consequences of the widening lockdown because of the new coronavirus would prevent him from attending Archbishop Pilarczyk’s Funeral Mass in Cincinnati.
“His wit & wisdom were legendary & will be missed,” the tweet said. “Alas his funeral liturgy will be private. I pray the Lord reward him with peace.”
Archbishop Pilarczyk wrote several popular books as well as pamphlets and articles explaining the Catholic faith. Among his books was the best-selling “Twelve Tough Issues: What the Church Teaches—and Why.” It later was revised and retitled as “Twelve Tough Issues—And More.” Recent works include “When God Speaks” and “Live Letters.”
Nearing retirement, Archbishop Pilarczyk launched Grateful Believers, an initiative to raise awareness of God’s blessings in daily life and increase stewardship within the Church.
His involvement in the Church reached beyond Cincinnati as he served in several leadership positions within the bishops’ conference, including terms as vice president from 1986 to 1989 and president from 1989 to 1992. He chaired several conference committees, among them those addressing education, liturgy and doctrine.
A ruptured brain aneurysm July 23, 1988, minimally slowed Archbishop Pilarczyk. He resumed many of his duties about eight weeks after successful brain surgery. Writing in The Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan newspaper, seven weeks later, the archbishop described his health scare as “a special act of God’s concern for me and my life. It was a stroke of his love.”
Archbishop Pilarczyk served as chairman of the board of trustees of The Catholic University of America and chaired the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, the body that prepares English translations of the Church’s Latin liturgical books and individual liturgical texts in accord with the Holy See’s directives.
Archbishop Pilarczyk ordained more than 100 priests and three bishops during his tenure. The archdiocese reported he confirmed more than 74,000 people.
Funeral services will be private. —CNS