"Everybody - stay calm!" These were words often spoken by the founding Bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach, the Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily, and anyone who knew him in the slightest degree probably heard them from him. He was a man who put others at ease in his presence and while he was truly "a man of God," he was always "one of us." His passing on May 15, 2017, gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the goodness of our founding shepherd as well as the many blessings he bestowed to our Diocese from the very beginning.
I was very privileged to know Bishop Daily as he came from the Diocese of Palm Beach to the Diocese of Brooklyn which was my home. I served as his vice chancellor, secretary and auxiliary bishop for ten years before I was transferred to the Diocese of Ogdensburg in upstate New York. One of my most vivid recollections of Bishop Daily was his deep love for the Diocese of Palm Beach and the years that he spent here as its founding Bishop. He would speak often of the exciting challenges he faced and how well they were met by the faith and goodness of the people and priests of the Diocese. He would also speak of the migrant workers who continue to be a vibrant part of the Diocese and of his great love for them. He had a great love for the Diocese of Palm Beach and its people and it was always integral to his ministry as Bishop of Brooklyn.
Bishop Daily was truly a man of the people. There was no guile or pretension in him. He would often say, "What you see is what you get," and how true and reassuring we found that to be. If one of the young people approaching him for Confirmation seemed a bit nervous, he would reassuringly say, "Don't be worried – it's only me!" At a reception, he waited in line with everyone else to get his meal and never wanted to be put ahead. On one of the Papal visits, he waited to go through security with everyone else when he could have gone ahead with the other bishops. He often spoke with great admiration of Cardinal Humberto Madeiros, one of his bishops in Boston, who had a great love for people and especially the poor. Bishop Daily often recalled how at the end of a formal dinner, Cardinal Madeiros would be found in the kitchen talking to the cooks and waiters where he was most comfortable. Bishop Daily took his role as a bishop very seriously but did not take himself as a person in the same manner.
Bishop Daily was a man of prayer. He gave himself to it totally and completely. His prayer was such that you could sense the presence of the Lord just by being in the presence of Bishop Daily. He did not hesitate to speak about God, God's love and mercy for all of us, God's will and God's presence among us. In the bishop’s house in Brooklyn, Bishop Daily was always the first in the chapel in the morning and the last to leave the chapel in the evening. So many times during the day, when he was in the house, he would be found in the chapel. He took a day off by making a Day of Recollection at the Passionist monastery in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He would often proclaim that there was nothing as strong as the power of prayer and that "One Hail Mary can change the world!"
Hand-in-hand with his love for prayer was his love for and dedication to the sanctity of human life especially on behalf of the unborn. Here in the Diocese of Palm Beach as in Boston, he carried out the vigils for prayer at clinics which performed abortions and continued this practice in Brooklyn. However, these vigils were truly prayer vigils. They were not protests and were meant to use the occasion to make prayer a primary vehicle in overcoming abortions. His counsel before these vigils was that those who participated were always to follow the proper procedures in accordance with the laws and never to be despairing in any way to those who might disparage them. He truly gave an example of respect for life by the way he lived.
At his funeral services in Brooklyn, two priests who knew Bishop Daily very well, delivered inspiring homilies about his life and ministry. Monsignor Ralph Maresca, his priest-secretary, delivered the homily for the Bishop’s Mass of Transferal. Father Vincent Daily, the Bishop's nephew from the Archdiocese of Boston, delivered the homily for his funeral Mass. While they both emphasized different aspects of the Bishop’s ministry, they coincided so much in regard to his character, holiness and humanness.
Monsignor Maresca spoke of the three virtues that characterized Bishop Daily’s life in such a captivating manner – faith, hope and love. He emphasized that the Bishop’s unwavering faith in God gave him a faith in the people and priests that he served so well. The Bishop’s faith was so strong that nothing ever seemed impossible to him as he would quote the Angel Gabriel "Nothing is impossible for God." Monsignor joked that this often included scheduling two events at one time at the request of the Bishop. Bishop Daily’s faith was always so evident and always an inspiration to everyone. Monsignor Maresca remarked how the Bishop’s hope would encourage others to accomplish things that they thought could never be done. Finally, Monsignor Maresca brought home how very personal and committed Bishop Daily’s love was for each and every person and he made everyone feel the goodness of their humanity as given to them by God. He also made everyone experience the merciful love of God in their lives.
Bishop Daily’s nephew, Father Daily spoke very movingly on the Bishop's family life as he grew up in Boston. His home in Belmont, Massachusetts, was a place of comfort, faith, joy and love. It was a true Christian home where Catholic faith took first place. It was from that family home that Bishop Daily emerged as a man of God and love for other people. Father Daily also emphasized how humility played an essential role in the life of Bishop Daily. He stressed that Bishop Daily never put on airs and was always kind, gentle and peaceable. He recalled the words of his uncle to him on his ordination day twenty-seven years ago, "Never forget the little souls. Stay close to them. Of course, never in a condescending manner. But the faithful, simple, holy, good people. The salt of the earth. They are more important than any title, award, rank or degree." Father Daily stated that his uncle truly was so similar to Pope Francis in his love for Christ, His Church, the poor, and especially those on the margins.
Bishop Daily had a great sense of humor. He could often be heard laughing. What was so inspiring about his sense of humor is that he never laughed at others – he always laughed at himself. He was the first to tell you of a mistake he made or something that made him look humorous. He loved watching Jackie Gleason’s, “The Honeymooners,” and he could be heard laughing out loud throughout the house.
We in the Diocese of Palm Beach were blessed to have the spiritual leadership and example of Bishop Daily. He gave us a vision of what the Diocese should be all about – a family united in Jesus Christ which proclaims respect and love for every person from the moment of conception until natural death. As the family of Christ we reach out to every person especially the poor and those on the margins who are so present among us and many times forgotten. We walk together as one to our Father in heaven realizing that, while we will have different roles, we all are equal before Him with no one better than another. We take Him seriously as the joy and foundation of our lives. We do not take ourselves too seriously but realize that we can laugh at ourselves before the Lord in whom we find our hope and our joy.
May Bishop Daily now rest in the peace of the Lord who he served so well. We do well to hear his words, “Everybody – stay calm!”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
June 9, 2017