Matthew Clark was installed as the eighth bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rochester on June 26, 1979. Church law requires that he submit his resignation upon his 75th birthday, a date that is less than three weeks away.
"The imminence of my birthday in July obviously for some months has made me focus not on that date, but it sort of opened doors to the past and floods of memories have come through, and I suppose will continue to do so, of just the wonderful, rich experience of having had the privilege of having of being bishop in this community,” said Clark.
Not everything in Clark's tenure has been pleasant. He says the most difficult part has been the sexual abuse of young people by members of the clergy.
"An event that caused immense pain and did much damage, to which we always have to try to bring healing and reconciliation, which we have to try with might and main to assure that it never happens again, ever."
Bishop Clark says he is opposed to same-sex marriage, but at the same time, opened the church to the gay and lesbian community to make them feel welcome; something that drew criticism from many.
"One of the very enriching parts of my ministry over the years has been many, many opportunities I've had to sit down with gay and lesbian people and to hear from them their experience of their lives and the pain it causes them when people speak of them in derogatory ways or with ugly statements or inferences that are damaging."
Clark will submit his letter of resignation July 15th, his 75th birthday. The Vatican will then begin the process of selecting his successor.
Clark calls the process unusual. The Pope will choose his successor and that could take up to a year, so Bishop Clark will remain in charge of the diocese until that successor is named.
"Everybody asks me, 'Who's it going to be?' I do not know and I will not know until about a day before it's announced. I'm not keeping a secret; I really do not know and certainly do not name who my successor will be. It will be Pope Benedict who does that."
An exhibit in the gathering area of Sacred Heart Cathedral depicts Bishop Clark's life and ministry. It includes family photos of his days as a youth in the Albany area as well as his 33-year tenure as leader of the Rochester Catholic Diocese. The photos will be on display through Labor Day.