Retired Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, N.Y., is shown delivering the April 26, 2013, homily during 8-year-old Erin Day's first Communion Mass at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Bishop Clark, 82, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (CNS photo/)
Retired Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester, N.Y., is shown delivering the April 26, 2013, homily during 8-year-old Erin Day's first Communion Mass at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester. Bishop Clark, 82, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (CNS photo/)

ROCHESTER (CNS) -- Retired Bishop Matthew H. Clark of Rochester has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement issued Sept. 3 by the diocese.

"Bishop Clark hopes to continue his ministry in the diocese," the three-sentence statement said.

Bishop Clark was born in Waterford, attended Catholic Central High in Troy and Holy Cross College before entering Mater Christi Seminary in Albany. 

Bishop Clark was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Martin O’Connor on Dec. 19, 1962 and taught at the Vincentian Institute in Albany and served at Our Lady of Mercy Parish. From 1966-67, Bishop Clark served as vice chancellor for the Diocese of Albany; then served as assistant pastor at St. Ambrose in Latham from 1967-72 and chairman of the diocesan priests’ personnel board from 1969-72 before returning to Rome. 

Ordained a bishop in Rome in 1979 at the age of 41 by St. John Paul II, Bishop Clark served as Rochester's bishop for 33 years before retiring in 2012. His successor, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, was installed in January 2014.

Bishop Clark led the central New York diocese through many episodes that mirrored the life of the U.S. church.In 2009, he accepted the recommendations of a diocesan task force that he close 13 of 24 Catholic schools in Monroe County, the seat of the 12-county diocese, and to cut tuition by more than 27 percent. He also accepted its recommendation he provide a financial incentive for families to re-enroll displaced children in the county's remaining Catholic schools.

In 2005, he approved a plan to consolidate five parishes on the southwest side of Rochester under one roof.

Bishop Clark effectively ended debate in his Diocese over whether girls should serve at the altar when, in 1987, he said that "all ministry that does not require ordination should be open to all qualified persons, regardless of sex."

He presided over a diocesan synod in 1993 -- its first since 1954 -- where delegates zeroed in on lifelong religious education in parishes as the most pressing upcoming diocesan priority. They also they urged Bishop Clark to press the Vatican for the ordination of married priests and the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood. Other declared priorities for the Diocese and its parishes included advancement of a consistent ethic of life, Catholic moral education, advancing the role of women in the Church and formation of small Christian communities.

In 1999, he was forced to curtail his activities while suffering from a painful but treatable disorder called temporal arteritis. The condition, also called giant-cell arteritis, involved inflammation of the arteries of the head, neck, upper body and arms. He had been complaining of muscular aches and pains at the time.

Bishop Clark also had to deal with a breakaway parish. He removed Father Michael Callan from Corpus Christi Parish in Rochester in 1998 and later suspended him from the priesthood for publicly defying Church teachings on women's liturgical roles, ministry to gay and lesbian Catholics and intercommunion with non-Catholics. It was after his removal that several other parish staff members left or were fired.

The Diocese declared in 1999 that those who had participated in the breakaway church had excommunicated themselves. The breakaway church now called Spiritus Christi, continues in 2019 with the same priest and nun from the original parish, as well as a laywoman now billed as "associate pastor." Bishop Clark said at the time the episode had caused him great pain.

Bishop Clark was chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Women in Society and in the Church in the early 1990s when the committee wrote and rewrote drafts of a proposed pastoral letter on the role of women in the Church. The document was never voted on as a pastoral letter, but a version of it was approved as a statement.

"We ask that the faithful pray for Bishop Clark and for all those who suffer with Alzheimer's, for their caregivers, and for all those medical professionals and organizations working to enhance care and treatment," the diocesan statement said.