Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
Following the death of Bishop David E. Foley people in the Diocese of Richmond recalled the kindness of the man who served as the diocese’s fifth auxiliary bishop from 1986 to 1994.
Bishop Foley, 88, bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, from 1994 until his retirement in 2005, passed away Tuesday, April 17.
Anne Edwards, who served as Bishop Foley’s administrative assistant during his time in the Diocese of Richmond, remembered him as a “great guy.”
“He shared a lot about himself and he was a tremendous listener,” she said. “His deepest desire was to live a holy life. He lived that out his whole life; he was a holy priest and a holy bishop. He worked hard to maintain a life of deep spirituality.”
Edwards noted that when she was working for Bishop Foley, she had five young children, and that he was understanding of them calling her when they got home from school. Sometimes, they got the bishop instead of their mom.
“One time my son called, and he got Bishop Foley on the phone — it was around Christmas time. The bishop said, ‘So, Jeff, what’d you get for Christmas?’
“‘Bishop, I prayed and prayed and prayed that I would get a motorcycle for Christmas, but God didn’t answer my prayer.’
“Bishop Foley said, ‘He did answer your prayer, Jeff. He said no.’”
Edwards, who attended the bishop’s installation on May 13, 1994, and his funeral on Monday, April 23, said “it was obvious he was very much loved” in the Diocese of Birmingham.
“Even though he was 88 years old, he still had a vibrant role in the life of that Church,” she said.
Msgr. William Carr, pastor of St. Bridget, Richmond, described Bishop Foley as a “hardy, jovial kind of man, with a great big smile and a great big booming voice.”
“He became a presence in the diocese,” the priest said. “Most people respected and liked him, and they were glad when he came to the parish.”
As did Monsignor Carr, Father Jim Griffin, pastor of St. Paul, Richmond, noted Bishop Foley was “very supportive of the priests.”
“He was a priest’s bishop; he understood priests,” Father Griffin said. “He understood what it meant to be a pastor.”
Reflecting on the life and work of the bishop she termed her “mentor,” Edwards said, “He was only 5 foot, 3 or 4 inches tall — very small in stature but he was a giant in heart.”