Pennsylvania Mourns Sudden Loss of Bishop McFadden

The head of the Diocese of Harrisburg died May 2 in Philadelphia.

Bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa.
Bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa. (photo: File photo/CNA)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Church and public officials from Pennsylvania are saddened by the unexpected death of Bishop Joseph McFadden, who shepherded the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of Bishop Joseph McFadden,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said.

“I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be with him over the last few days at the annual spring meeting of the Pennsylvania bishops and spend time in conversation with him.”

Bishop McFadden died on May 2 at the age of 65 while in a series of weeklong meetings with his fellow bishops of Pennsylvania, which were being held in Philadelphia. He awoke feeling ill and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead that morning, according to the Harrisburg Diocese.

His cause of death has not yet been announced.

The governance of the Diocese of Harrisburg has passed to the College of Consultors, who must elect a diocesan administrator who will serve the diocese until Pope Francis appoints the 11th bishop of Harrisburg.

Bishop McFadden’s body will lie in state at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Harrisburg beginning Sunday evening. Solemn Evening Prayer will be said there in the body’s presence on May 5 and 6. It will be transferred to Holy Name of Jesus Parish on the afternoon of May 7, where Evening Prayer will again be said.

A solemn funeral Mass will be said for Bishop McFadden at Holy Name the morning of May 8.

Bishop McFadden was born in 1947 in Philadelphia. He studied political science at St. Joseph University and was a high-school teacher for seven years before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

In 1981, he was ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese. While a priest, he served as a pastor, secretary to the archbishop and a high-school president.

He was appointed an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese in 2004 and became bishop of Harrisburg in 2010. He served as pastor of the 248,000 Catholics in south-central Pennsylvania from his installation on Aug. 18, 2010, until his death.

Archbishop Chaput, who is metropolitan archbishop over Harrisburg, said that Philadelphia “was always close” to Bishop McFadden’s heart, as he was a native.

“His love for the priesthood was evident in everything that he did. He worked diligently to promote vocations to the priesthood and advance the mission of Catholic education.”

“Although he served as the bishop of Harrisburg for only a short time, he effectively embraced the call of our former Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to use new forms of media to proclaim the message of the Gospel,” Archbishop Chaput said.

Bob Casey Jr., U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, said that Bishop McFadden was “a forceful advocate, an effective leader and a much beloved shepherd for the people of Harrisburg, Philadelphia and all of Pennsylvania. I join the Diocese of Harrisburg in mourning the passing of a good man.”

Tom Corbett, the governor of Pennsylvania, said Bishop McFadden brought “a compassion and understanding of the value of every human person” to his ministry and that he set “an example for all people of all faiths.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded by extending the “prayerful sympathy” of the Philadelphia Church to that of Harrisburg.