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Bishop Bernard J. McLaughlin dies at 102

Nov. 19, 1912 – Jan. 5, 2015

Bishop Bernard J. McLaughlin, a priest who became pastor, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and an auxiliary bishop here, died Monday evening in his home in the Town of Tonawanda, one day before he would have celebrated the 46th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop.

He was 102, and was the second-oldest living bishop in the world. Archbishop Peter Leo Gerety, 102, archbishop emeritus of Newark, was born four months to the day before Bishop McLaughlin.

He was ordained a bishop Jan. 6, 1969, with a worldwide group of churchmen by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

It was the first time in the history of the Diocese of Buffalo that a local priest had been consecrated to that high office by a pope.

Bishop McLaughlin became an auxiliary to Bishop James A. McNulty. He was appointed titular Bishop of Mottola, a bygone diocese in North Africa, and auxiliary here Dec. 28, 1968, and went to Rome for the consecration the following month.

On Jan. 15, 1988, Pope John Paul II accepted his letter of resignation, at which time Bishop McLaughlin became auxiliary bishop emeritus of Buffalo.

Reflecting on his priesthood, Bishop McLaughlin told the Western New York Catholic newspaper in 2009, “It’s a wonderful life and has remarkable rewards for those who accept the challenge of priesthood and faithfully live it out. I am especially grateful for the gift of priesthood.”

What was the key to his long life?

“The goodness of the Lord,” he said. “I can’t take any credit for it.”

In retirement, he lived in a home within Mount Olivet Cemetery in the Town of Tonawanda, where he was cared for by his niece, Susan DiCarlo.

Despite failing eyesight, he continued to celebrate daily Mass in St. Timothy Church in the Town of Tonawanda well into his 90s.

His final public appearance was on Nov. 19, 2012, when he concelebrated a Mass in St. John the Baptist Church in the Town of Tonawanda on his 100th birthday.

Although his priestly career included pastoral responsibilities, it also contained a considerable burden of administrative work.

He became an assistant chancellor in 1946, then vice chancellor. Bishop Joseph A. Burke appointed him chancellor of the diocese in 1953. He remained in this chief administrative post for 16 years, directing a busy staff in the Chancery at 35 Lincoln Parkway.

Born in North Tonawanda, one of seven children, he attended Visitation School after the family moved to Buffalo. He entered the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in 1925 and was a member of its first graduating class in 1930.

He went on to Urban College for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood there Dec. 21, 1935, in St. John Lateran Basilica.

His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Joseph’s New Cathedral, where he remained until 1942, when he was named secretary of the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal.

In November 1950, he became founding pastor of Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish on Buffalo’s West Side. While holding this pastorate, he became chancellor and was transferred in 1961 to the pastorate of Blessed Sacrament Church in the Town of Tonawanda. Later he served as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in the Town of Tonawanda.

He received the papal designation of private chamberlain and the title of very reverend monsignor from Pope Pius XII in 1950. Three years later he became domestic prelate, entitled to the address of right reverend monsignor.

Rome again recognized him in 1967 when he received the high ecclesiastical rank of protonotary apostolic.

At ceremonies in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Sept. 14, 1968, he was invested a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, a distinguished papal order.

He became a vicar general of the Diocese of Buffalo in 1966 and served on the board of consultors, a group of priest advisers who met periodically with the bishop.

Earlier in his career, he taught labor ethics at the Diocesan Labor Management College and served as chaplain for the Catholic Guild for the Blind.

In addition to his niece, survivors include a nephew, Father Robert Waters, a priest in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later this week.

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