‘Pastor of Souls’

May 13-19, 2004
‘Pastor of Souls’
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Bishop Frank Harrison’s Funeral Celebrates His Vision and Love of God

With simplicity and friendship in the atmosphere, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was the place of the last diocesan gathering for Bishop Frank Harrison. His funeral took place there on May 7 with visiting bishops from around the state and beyond including Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and Bishop Matthew Clark of the Rochester Diocese and Bishop Patrick Sheridan from Archdiocese of New York. More than 100 priests concelebrated the funeral Mass with members of Bishop Harrison’s family gathered in the front pews. Bishop James Moynihan read two letters, one from the pope’s representative and one from Cardinal Edward Egan, at the beginning of the Mass. Cardinal Egan referred to Bishop Harrison as “an extraordinary pastor of souls” and Bishop Thomas Costello’s homily painted a picture of that soul.

Before the Mass began, friends greeted one another and shared their stories about Bishop Harrison among themselves. Sister Eileen McCann, CSJ, diocesan director of the Office of Youth Ministry, said she appreciated his collaborative style. She worked with Bishop Harrison at Catholic Charities and with the first established office of youth ministry. “He recognized gifts in his staff and let them go with it,” she said. Mary Osada, administrative assistant to the diocesan director of Catholic Charities, knew the bishop for 30 years and during that time witnessed his care and affection for those he worked with. “He was a wonderful man,” Osada said. “He was so good to everyone, especially staff. He knew your name, he knew the names of the people in your family, he knew your cousin’s name. He was a genuine person, a loving man.”

During Bishop Moynihan’s greeting he spoke of Bishop Harrison’s great strength. “For 90-plus years of his magnificent life, Bishop Harrison was strong of voice, strong of body, strong of mind and strong of heart. It was only the last few months when some of that strength ebbed and those months he was very grateful for the assistance of friends at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tommy Coyne Residence, St. Camillus — very grateful for the help of his brothers in the priesthood and the visits he received. He was grateful to members of the chancery staff, grateful for Kate Anderson and Ed King and for two very special priests, Father George Sheehan and Father Bob Yeazel. To his family, we would like you to know we are going to miss this very magnificent bishop in our midst.”

Nieces and nephews of Bishop Harrison participated in the Mass and Deacon Les Distin read the Gospel, John 17:24-26, before Bishop Costello delivered the homily. “John tells us of a time when time will be no more,” Bishop Costello began. “That hour has struck for Frank Harrison.” Bishop Costello said what Bishop Harrison would have said regarding his name, “‘Yes, it’s Frank. That was my father’s name and I was never called Francis.’” “He died a little after 7 on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker,” Bishop Costello said. He’s gone over yonder to that heavenly place, Bishop Costello said quoting from Bishop Harrison’s favorite song, “The Lights of the City.”

The beginning of Bishop Harrison’s life found the first of his “fierce loyalties” when he was baptized at St. Lucy’s — a loyalty began to Syracuse’s west end, west side and St. Lucy’s Parish, Bishop Costello said. Those years were followed by another loyalty, to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Bishop Costello talked about Bishop Harrison’s first assignments after his ordination to the priesthood almost 67 years ago. He went to Camp Assisi, then to St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in Utica, then St. Mary’s in Binghamton and then to the Cathedral where he served as priest, coach, teacher, and chaplain to hospitals and the city’s fire department. Bishop Costello said that he felt Bishop Harrison’s assignment to St. Patrick’s Church in Binghamton was providential. “For in Binghamton his many leadership abilities enjoyed ample opportunities of expression,” Bishop Costello said. There was a great ecumenical movement and inter-religious collaboration in Binghamton at that time. “In Binghamton he earned the admiration, respect and confidence of local priests and they knew how much he cherished being in their presence,” Bishop Costello said.

The bishop spoke of Bishop Harrison’s great “Santa Claus” laugh and his humility and total lack of pretentiousness. “It was obvious he liked people and people liked him,” Bishop Costello said. “He was at ease with them and more significantly, he was at ease with himself.” The Council of Priests were encouraged to profile Bishop Cunningham’s successor and the outcome, Bishop Costello said, was for a pastoral, prayerful, compassionate, open-minded person who would listen. “For those who knew Bud Harrison,” Bishop Costello said, “that was his recipe.” He spoke about the “cast of thousands” that participated in Bishop Harrison’s installation at the War Memorial. Bishop Costello said the 300 member-strong choir “rocked the rafters” of the venue during the ceremony. Cardinal Terrence Cooke told those at the installation that they would never forget it, Bishop Costello said. Bishop Harrison’s was a Vatican II vision of church, Bishop Costello said. “He taught us what the local church is.”

“How often he said, ‘What do you think?’” Bishop Costello remembered. “And he listened. It was a ‘we’ of shared determination. Oh, some complained it was too slow. Bud was a priest, a pastor, he understood the parish is where the action is.” Bishop Harrison sensed the experience of isolation and exclusion that came with regionalism within the diocese, Bishop Costello said. His role was to call forward the local visionaries and the local talents within the diocese. He noted that Pope John Paul II summed up Bishop Harrison’s tenure in a letter congratulating him on his 50th anniversary of ordination. The pope wrote that Bishop Harrison frequently consulted with others and shared with others and yet at the same time preserved unity. He sited Bishop Harrison’s prayerfulness and his practice of centering prayer. He also, Bishop Costello said, tried to help people recognize the power of God within their lives. Bishop Costello thanked Father George Sheehan, Father Robert Yeazel, Kate Anderson and Bishop Harrison’s health aide, Tyronda Floyd, for taking such exceptional care of him. The end of the homily stirred everyone’s emotions as Bishop Costello asked out loud, “Can you see them? Can you see the lights?” as if he were talking to his friend, Bishop Harrison. The words came from “The Lights of the City” and reminded everyone of the hope and joy of resurrection. Bishop Costello served as auxiliary bishop to Bishop Harrison and one could only imagine the ache he felt at losing a dear friend.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Moynihan thanked Bishop Costello and then the crowd stood on their feet clapping to show their appreciation. The “Notre Dame Fight Song” was played while the crowd grinned in recognition of the song that Bishop Harrison undoubtedly enjoyed many times. The song at the end of the procession was, of course, “The Lights of the City.” Tyronda Floyd was at the funeral paying her respects to her friend, Bishop Harrison. She called him a “very honorable friend” and said that he taught her many things, one being that, “Even though he was 90 years old, he was still in charge,” Floyd laughed. Sam Donnelly, law professor at Syracuse University, was at the funeral. He was also at the installation ceremony in 1977. “Bishop Harrison introduced me to the life of Vatican II,” Donnelly said after the funeral. “I remember watching him walk up that aisle alone. I describe the church he gave us as our ‘Camelot.’”

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