SCRANTON – As he began his homily during the Mass of Christian Burial for the Most Reverend John M. Dougherty, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera looked out at the large crowd gathered inside the Cathedral of Saint Peter and smiled.
Bishop Bambera was preparing to explain Bishop Dougherty’s humility in a simple, straightforward way.
“No one, no one would have wanted to avoid or shun words and remembrances more than Bishop Dougherty himself,” Bishop Bambera said. “We all know that he crafted into an art form avoidance of the attention that so often accompanies the office of pastor and especially bishop.”
With the Cathedral filled with hundreds of family, friends, former parishioners and fellow clergy on April 26, 2022, Bishop Bambera reflected on Bishop Dougherty’s generous and faithful ministry to the Diocese of Scranton that spanned 65 years.
“He was clearly far more comfortable serving in the shadows of the Chancery, in hospitals and on the streets with the poor than in positions of honor or recognition,” Bishop Bambera noted.
Bishop Dougherty died on April 16, the day before Easter and 13 days shy of his 90th birthday.
The bishops of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg and Syracuse attended the funeral Mass. Two Auxiliary Bishops from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia also attended.
Bishop Bambera noted the “innumerable messages” he had received from people since Bishop Dougherty’s passing.
“In virtually every message, his kindness, his care and sensitivity especially to the poor and suffering, his simplicity of life and the depth of his holiness were recounted with deep gratitude,” Bishop Bambera explained.
Bishop Bambera easily connected the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 25:31-46) proclaimed during the Mass to the life Bishop Dougherty lived.
“The Gospel is Jesus’ last discourse recorded by Matthew before the events of the Passion unfold. In the vision Matthew presents, Christ, the Shepherd-King, clearly and unequivocally identifies himself with humankind and particularly the poor: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,’” Bishop Bambera said.
Bishop Bambera said his friend and fellow clergyman understood the teaching of Jesus well.
“He understood that authentic faith demands that we ‘put on Christ’ and that his life become the pattern for our lives,” Bishop Bambera preached.
“Ultimately, our place in God’s kingdom will be determined by how generously we have made the life of Christ our own and reached beyond ourselves to bring justice, peace and reconciliation into the lives of those in whom Christ is present.”
For all his accomplishments in the administration of the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Bambera said it was Bishop Dougherty’s willingness to reach out to those people on the peripheries of life that will be remembered and appreciated above everything else.
“He quite literally fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the imprisoned, welcomed the stranger, shared the sacraments generously and helped to create in his own simple way the new world – the new Jerusalem – envisioned in the book of Revelation. Why can I make such a bold statement? Because these are the stories that are being told throughout this local Church in these days since his passing and that countless numbers of you have shared with me all day yesterday as you visited this Cathedral to honor the bishop,” he said.
Bishop Dougherty is survived by his two sisters-in-law as well as 20 nieces and nephews. His niece, Bernadette Adcroft, and nephew, Edward A. Dougherty, served as lectors during the funeral Mass.
Students from five Diocesan Catholic schools, All Saints Academy, Holy Cross High School, Holy Redeemer High School, Notre Dame High School and Saint Clare/Saint Paul School, served as hospitality ministers at the Mass, distributing programs as people entered.
Members of the Knights of Columbus and the Order of Malta also honored Bishop Dougherty’s lifetime of service by participating in the Mass of Christian Burial.
As Bishop Bambera concluded his homily, he shared one additional story that he said captured Bishop Dougherty’s life.
“A few days ago, a friend told me of how he often encountered the Bishop praying late in the evening in a back corner of the Eucharistic adoration chapel at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow. Therein we discover the key to understanding the generous and selfless life of Bishop Dougherty. He served because he knew his Master well,” Bishop Bambera explained.
As Bishop Dougherty was taken to his place of rest at Cathedral Cemetery in Scranton, the recessional hymn, ‘Sing with All the Saints in Glory,’ echoed throughout the walls of the Cathedral.