Death of Maitland-Newcastle's Bishop Leo Clarke

The Catholic community of Maitland-Newcastle is preparing to farewell retired Bishop Leo Clarke, who died on Saturday, aged 82, after a long illness.

Bishop Clarke was ordained the sixth bishop of the Diocese in June 1976, after many years of priestly service in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. He retired in 1995 and was succeeded by Bishop Michael Malone.

Bishop Clarke was the son of dedicated Catholic parents. As a child he and his newsagent father cycled to daily Mass after the papers were delivered.

As he discerned his future, his father's faith-filled life and love of the Mass led him to the conviction that he was being called to priesthood. Archbishop Daniel Mannix ordained Leo priest in St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne on 24 July 1949.

When he became Master of Ceremonies at the Cathedral, his duties included hosting gatherings at the presbytery. As well as fulfilling his priestly ministries, he met visitors as diverse as Arthur Calwell and the Von Trapp Family. The influence of Archbishop Mannix, a towering figure in church and secular circles, remained important throughout Leo's life.

He had served the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 27 years when he was appointed Bishop of Maitland in 1976, following the death of Bishop John Toohey.

According to Bishop Michael Malone, "As Bishop Leo's successor, I am aware of the lasting impact of many of his initiatives in the Diocese. He was instrumental in implementing a program of renewal for all within the diocesan community. He initiated the Synod of 1992-93, a sustained consultation process involving clergy and laity coming to grips with the issues raised by the Second Vatican Council."

Bishop Malone acknowledged Bishop Leo's major rationalisation of Newcastle's Catholic secondary schools. "This was very controversial at the time and caused Bishop Leo enormous pain. History has shown it was the right decision. I'm glad he took the initiative, despite the opposition."

"The church has been enormously enhanced by Bishop Leo's leadership. I trust that history will judge him kindly."

There will be a Vigil of Prayer and Remembrance at Newcastle's Sacred Heart Cathedral West this Thursday at 7.00pm. Pontifical Funeral Mass will be held on Friday at 11.00am, also at the Cathedral. The Cortege will proceed to the Bishops' Crypt at St John the Baptist Church in Maitland, arriving at 2.30pm.

Catholic diocese remembers retired Bishop Leo Clarke (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle 5/6/06)
Vale Bishop Leo Clarke by Mgr Allan Hart (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle 5/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Leo Morris Clarke
Bishop Leo Morris Clarke (catholic-hierarchy.org)
Archbishops and Bishops in Retirement - Official Directory of the Catholic Church in Australia

6 Jun 2006