KENMORE — The second oldest Catholic bishop in the United States celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday at St. John the Baptist Church in Kenmore.
Surrounded by friends, family, parishioners and dozens of the local Catholic hierarchy, a special mass was held for Bishop Bernard J. McLaughlin, who was born in North Tonawanda and attended Ascension Church before being ordained a priest in 1935. He is also the sixth oldest bishop in the world.
McLaughlin’s assignments as a priest included St. Joseph New Cathedral, pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Tonawanda and St. John the Baptist in Kenmore, while he also was the the founding pastor of Coronation Parish in Buffalo.
He was assigned to the diocesan tribunal and became its chancellor while also serving as its administrator between the reigns of bishops James A. McNulty and Edward D. Head.
McLaughlin became the first Western New York bishop to be ordained by a pope in 1969, when Pope Paul VI blessed him in Vatican City.
Perhaps the most renowned Catholic leader in recent memory, Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation in 1988, though McLaughlin would remain active in the church as an auxiliary bishop emeritus, celebrating 75 years in 2010.
“I am especially grateful for the gift of priesthood,” said McLaughlin, in a statement released by the Buffalo Catholic Diocese.
Several of McLaughlin’s family members took part in a hour-long service Monday at St. John the Baptist Church, where he served in the 1970s. Many of those who knew the bishop personally or recalled his days leading the church where on hand.
Current Bishop Richard J. Malone led the service along with retired bishops Donald Trautman and Edward Kmiec. Several other priests and bishops from around the New York state also were in attendance.
Carol Starck, who said she has been with the parish since 1945, fondly recalled McLaughlin’s time there.
“I grew up in the parish,” she said.
Frank Richey said he attends service at the church almost daily, adding that he was pleased to see McLaughlin carry on service to the church for so many years.
“It’s a great day and it’s good to see him,” Richey said.
Current Bishop of Buffalo Richard J. Malone called Monday “a great day of joy for all here in the diocese of Buffalo,” citing “the number of people who have come here today to celebrate” McLaughlin’s birthday.
“It’s a great testimony to everyone’s fondness and esteem and our wishes for many more years,” he said.
Many in attendance followed the Catholic coalition to the elementary school where a luncheon was held for McLaughlin.
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Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.