By Steve Neill, Special to The Catholic Virginian
As he reached 75 this past April, the age of retirement for bishops, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo began planning his retirement: he wanted to preside at the weekday noon Mass at St. Peter’s Church in downtown Richmond three days a week and celebrate one of the parish’s two Sunday liturgies.
But Bishop DiLorenzo’s plans were cut short when he died a few minutes before midnight on August 17 , 2017, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. His death was caused by heart and kidney failure.
He died peacefully, said Anne Edwards, Special Assistant to the Bishop, who was with him at the time. “He said ‘I want to go home.’”
Sister Janice Johnson, a longtime friend of Bishop DiLorenzo who is in Allentown, PA, was also with him. Msgr. Mark Richard Lane, Vicar General of the Diocese; Father Timothy Kuhneman, Vicar for Clergy, and Father Michael Boehling, Vicar for Vocations, were also with Bishop DiL.orenzo earlier that night.
“Today the priests, deacons, religious and lay people of the Diocese of Richmond mourn the loss of our shepherd, who led the Diocese with wisdom and humility for 13 years,” Msgr. Lane said.
“Bishop DiLorenzo had a profound understanding and faith in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our Lord, which sees past the Cross and into eternal life with our Savior. With that same faith and hope, we look forward to our happy reunion.”
A Mass of Christian Burial was to be celebrated on Friday, Aug. 25, at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond. Entombment was in the Cathedral crypt below the Cathedral altar. (The funeral occurred after press time for The Catholic Virginian print version. See www.catholicvirginian.org and the September 11 edition for funeral coverage.)
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore was to be the main celebrant of the Mass. Longtime friend Bishop Joseph Pepe, who also hails from Philadelphia, was to preach the homily.
Vespers was held in the Cathedral the previous night. Bishop DiLorenzo was to lie in repose in the Cathedral for four hours preceding the Vespers service at 7 p.m. and, afterward, until 9 a.m. the following morning.
Born in Philadelphia April 15, 1942, he was the oldest of three children born to Samuel and Anita Porrino DiLorenzo. He is survived by his sister, Anita Lawler, of Cape May, NJ, and brother Paul DiLorenzo of Philadelphia, and Sister Janice, a close family friend.
Diana Calderaio, of Newtown Square, PA, was a fellow classmate of Bishop DiLorenzo from the first through 8th grade at St. Callistus School in Philadelphia’s Overbrook neighborhood. Her husband, John Calderaio, attended St. Thomas More High School with him.
The future Bishop was known as Franny to students at St. Callistus. In high school he became known as Frank.
“We went all through school together,” said Mrs. Calderaio, then Diana Palestini. She remembers Bishop DiLorenzo as a “big teaser.”
“Franny would laugh and laugh all the time,” she said. “He was always a lot of fun. He certainly wasn’t a stick in the mud.”
Bishop DiLorenzo was Bishop of the Diocese of Honolulu when Pope John Paul II appointed him 12th Bishop of Richmond. He was installed May 24, 2004. His episcopal motto was “Christ Our Hope.”
During his 13 years as Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, Bishop DiLorenzo saw vocations to the priesthood as a high priority. Since his arrival in 2004, he ordained 22 men to the priesthood. The number of seminarians increased two-and-a-half-fold from nine to 31.
In 2004, he and Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington (now emeritus) jointly established the Virginia Catholic Conference to promote lay Catholic participation in the political process and support legislation that serves the common good.
He is widely credited with saving two Catholic schools which were struggling and might have been closed. He established the McMahon Parater Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen schools by providing scholarships and financial assistance.
“Above all, Bishop was a man of inclusion,” said Ray Honeycutt, superintendent of the Office of Catholic Schools. “His passion for education made him a great advocate for the Office of Catholic Schools. He championed the disenfranchised and pushed hard to make Catholic education available to all.
Annette Parsons, former Schools administrator, echoed that sentiment. “Bishop DiLorenzo passionately believed in the power of quality education and formation to transform the lives of young people,” she said. “His determined commitment to the youth of the Diocese led to the strengthening of Catholic schools, campus and youth ministry programs and formation of teachers, catechists and catechetical leaders.”
In 2007, Bishop DiLorenzo completed plans to move the Diocese’s central administrative offices from the Chancery across from the Cathedral to what is known as the Pastoral Center of the Diocese of Richmond located in Henrico County. He envisioned a site that would allow multiple diocesan meetings with plenty of parking. The move greatly benefitted visitors, with its central location close to major highways and easy parking for daily Mass.
Bishop DiLorenzo launched the capital campaign Living Our Mission, which raised $105 million to strengthen parishes, support clergy and promote evangelization.
Bishop DiLorenzo’s leadership in the work of evangelization made manifest through his diocesan Pastoral Plan “Encounter the Joy of the Gospel and Set the World Ablaze” set a roadmap for parishes, Catholic schools, and college campus ministries to be beacons of hospitality and the Gospel message to both engaged and fallen away Catholics alike.
After graduation from high school, he attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, PA. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by Cardinal John Krol on May 18, 1968. The Archdiocese sent him to Rome in 1971 for further studies. He earned a license in sacred theology from the Academia Alphonsiana and a doctorate of sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Bishop DiLorenzo served as chaplain and instructor in theology at St. Pius X High School in Pottstown, PA, and later chaplain and associate professor of moral theology at Immaculata College. He was vice rector and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. Named a member of the Papal Household he received the title Prelate of Honor of His Holiness Pope John Paul II that same year.
In 1988 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Scranton. Five years later he was named Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Honolulu and installed as bishop Oct. 4, 1994. There he participated in the 1998 Synod Bishops for Asia where he encouraged greater collaboration between Asian and U.S. bishops to serve the growing needs of Catholic Asians in the United States.
Bishop DiLorenzo had been actively involved in the work of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving on the Administrative Committee and chairman of the Committee on Science and Human Values before he came to Richmond. He promoted publication of brochures which reflected the USCCB’s consultations with scientists on the relationship of science and religion and ethical issues of genetic testing and genetic screening.
Bishop DiLorenzo had planned to continue living at his home in the Amberleigh neighborhood of Midlothian after Pope Francis accepted his request for retirement. He loved Virginia and planned to remain. He also planned to regularly visit his home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Memorial Fund for priests established to honor Bishop DiLorenzo
Bishop DiLorenzo had a special place in his heart for his priests. For that reason, the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Richmond has established the “Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo Memorial Fund for Priests.” The income from this endowment fund will be used to support priestly vocations and the retired priests of the Diocese. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to this endowment fund: Catholic Community Foundation, 7800 Carousel Lane, Richmond, Virginia 23294