Remembering Bishop Joseph McFadden

I had nearly gotten to my desk this morning when I took a quick look at my work email on my Smartphone.

The time was 9:51 a.m. and I had a fresh email from Joe Aponick, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.

The subject line read: Death of Bishop McFadden.

Bishop McFadden preaches to the congregation at Brougher Chapel on York College’s campus for Ash Wednesday. DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS – KATE PENN

I froze in my tracks and quickly opened the email. In that split second, I thought this could not be referring to our Bishop McFadden. I just interviewed him in February at York College and was looking forward to doing so again at St. Joseph’s Theology on Tap event May 15.

The email contents confirmed the shocking news. McFadden died very suddenly earlier in the day after he fell ill while at a conference in Philadelphia.

We quickly got a story on and the condolences poured in. Bishop for just three years, McFadden was well liked.

I can’t say I knew him that well. We had a phone interview last year about the Catholic Year of Faith campaign and I met him in person in February, when we talked about new Pope Francis.

I came away from that with one memory of McFadden. We were able to talk as he met every parishioner on their way out the door. I remember the bishop for his strikingly easygoing manner with everyone from 8 to 80.

His go-to move was a firm handshake accompanied by a quick, hearty “how ya doin?” He must have said it 50 times that night, as Brougher Chapel on campus was packed full.

I remember watching him and thinking, “he reminds me of someone I’d want to grab a beer with.” That’s a common refrain to distinguish someone as having everyman qualities. But it surprised me to be thinking it about a Catholic bishop.

But to me, that was Joseph McFadden. A guy who related easily.

Rest in peace.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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