Bishop Edward Clark, auxiliary bishop of the Our Lady of the Angels pastoral region, is retiring after 21 years of service to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He caught up with Angelus to discuss his favorite memories and what comes next.
Bishop, the Holy Father just accepted your resignation after 21 years as an auxiliary bishop here. What’s the biggest change in the Church that comes to mind since you were named a bishop in 2001?
The complexity of the Church today is the biggest thing that comes to mind.
The Church has become not only much more involved in the world’s situations, but also much more a target for people’s disappointment or unhappiness. I think we’ve gone in these years from a Church that was welcomed and appreciated and respected, to an institution that more people are suspicious and critical of. It’s become much more difficult for the priests and religious and laypeople who are representing and ministering in the Church to find acceptance.
On the positive side, I think that the Church has become a more visible sign of offering a challenge to the world.
What are some of the fondest memories you take from your time in the Our Lady of the Angels pastoral region?
Apart from all the beautiful examples mentioned in the recent Angelus article by Mike Nelson, I have to say one of them has been working with the priests. I’ve been very blessed with the priests who’ve served in this region in these 21 years and developed a lot of friendships among them. I admire how hard they are working to make a change and to be present to people.
I know it’s been very difficult these last couple of years for a lot of them. We thrive on our relationships with people, and COVID has made that more distant. That’s been harder on the priests than people realize.
For the priests, the people they serve are their family, especially if they don’t have personal family any longer, or they are distant from them. The people of the parish become their family.
One of the hardest things about being a bishop is that you don’t have those relationships with people like a pastor has. Pastors can spend years in a parish, and they see families formed, they marry couples, they baptize their kids and sometimes their grandkids. They see people grow up and they grow up with them, seeing them week after week. I always tell the priests, a pastor is the best job in the world. It’s much better than being a bishop.
Another highlight that stands out was the rebuilding of St. Patrick’s Church (in South LA). It has always been a poor, immigrant parish, a transitional parish that’s gone through a lot of phases. The church building was lost after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, and for years they celebrated eight, nine Masses every Sunday out of a little classroom.
We came up with the idea of asking all the parishes of the region to contribute toward rebuilding the church. They finally got a beautiful church, adequate in size, and it’s all paid off. The people worked so hard, too. It was really a testament to the sense of the interparochial relationships in the archdiocese.
Also, I have to say that working with both archbishops (Cardinal Mahony and Archbishop Gomez) has been different, because they’re different people, but I certainly have enjoyed my years working with them.
So, what’s next? Any retirement plans?
I don’t have any big plans at the moment. I was hoping to be able to travel but it’s just not possible with the pandemic. I have dear friends in Italy … Indonesia … India, all places I want to go to and spend time with them. But that’s completely up in the air at the moment.
Other than that, I’m still focused on trying to finish getting moved out of the rectory at Cathedral Chapel (in Mid-City LA) and the regional office at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. It’s a bigger task than I expected. Twenty-one years in the same house — it’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate. We’ve been going through the files, cleaning things, deciding what goes to the archives, what has to be disposed of, and what should be saved for the next bishop.
I’ll be living at a house in the Diocese of San Bernardino, and I’ll also have rooms at one of the parishes here in Los Angeles when I’m in town for confirmations or events. Even in retirement, I’m still an auxiliary bishop. I’ll still have events that I’m expected to attend.