Mourners turned out by the hundreds Wednesday for the funeral of Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, a spiritual leader of 250,000 central Pennsylvanians, as colleagues hailed him as a tireless advocate for his church.
McFadden, 65, had been Harrisburg's bishop for less than three years when he died Thursday, but 1,700 people packed the more than two-hour service at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput presided over the Mass whose crowd included Gov. Tom Corbett and a half-dozen state legislators.
Allentown Bishop John Barres recalled McFadden's lifelong love of basketball, he had been a coach in his younger years, and said he "played to win," whether it was his efforts to promote Catholicism or his demeanor on the court. But he also was compassionate, Barres said.
"All sorts of small but vibrant stories and anecdotes are emerging about how in an unseen way he went the extra mile in priestly charity and how he followed up over and over again and stayed in touch with people," Barres said in his homily.
As chairman of the Catholic Education Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, McFadden has been a national leader of the effort to rebuild the Catholic school system, Barres said. At the state Capitol, he was involved in last year's successful efforts to win new state tax credits that help students afford tuition at parochial schools.
McFadden "always pushed new opportunities, new and creative ways of advancing Catholic education in the 21st century," Barres said.
McFadden was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Harrisburg following the funeral.
He suffered a fatal heart attack after feeling ill while attending a meeting of the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania in his native Philadelphia. The abruptness of his death stunned church leaders and parishioners in the 15-county diocese in central Pennsylvania.
The bishop's body was at St. Patrick Cathedral, near the state Capitol in downtown Harrisburg, during several days of memorial services leading up to the funeral.
Pope Benedict XVI selected McFadden, formerly an auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia, as the 10th bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese. He succeeded Bishop Kevin Rhoades, who was appointed bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in Indiana.
The selection of McFadden as Harrisburg's bishop was criticized by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests because of his ties to the Philadelphia Archdiocese, which was criticized in 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports that claimed the church concealed sex-abuse allegations for decades and transferred pedophile priests to unsuspecting parishes.
McFadden was never mentioned in those reports, and he denied have any knowledge of such activity.