By Ed Wilkinson and Marie Elena Giossi
During three days of tributes and farewells, the late Bishop Emeritus Thomas V. Daily was remembered as a missionary priest who was devoted to the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother, and the people, especially the poor and the downtrodden of the diocese.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Friday, May 19, in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Pastoral Center, Douglaston, with about 500 people in attendance. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the main celebrant. He was joined at the altar by 15 bishops and special concelebrants, including Msgrs. Otto Garcia, Michael Hardiman, Ralph Maresca, and Father David Costello, representing the St. James Society in Boston.
Father Vincent Daily, a nephew of the late bishop, preached the homily, that spoke about the “thoroughly Catholic” Daily family that produced four sons, two of whom became priests of the Boston Archdiocese, and one of whom became the Bishop of Brooklyn.
“First of all, he was devoted to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist,” said Father Daily. “He was once quoted as saying, ‘The Eucharist is a mystery so great that it frightens me.’
“The Mass was the love of Bishop Tom’s life.”
He also pointed out that Bishop Daily’s devotion to Our Lady “was very profound, and he would often say, “One Hail Mary can change the world.”
Father Daily recalled the Saturday morning pro-life vigils conducted by the bishop when he would pray the Rosary outside abortion clinics.
“Saturday vigils were not protests,” he said. “They were prayers.
“The bishop would go out of his way to pray the Rosary for the unborn. Every human being was important to Bishop Tom.”
Lastly, Father Daily said that Bishop Daily “was a humble man who was aware of limitations and aware of his own sinfulness. His humility made him a real priest. He never put on airs. He would say, ‘My father would never let me get away with that.’”
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who succeeded Bishop Daily as the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, noted that Bishop Daily came from “a strong Knights of Columbus family. His father was State Deputy in Massachusetts at one time.”
Archbishop Lori also pointed that Bishop Daily “connected with everybody.” He told the story of once accompanying Bishop Daily through Kennedy Airport and being stopped by so many people who knew him.
“He talked to every person who had a uniform on,” said the archbishop.
He said that his simple, deep spirituality and ability to relate to ordinary people were qualities that Bishop Daily shared with Pope Francis.
Archbishop Lori expressed “the deepest gratitude from the Knights of Columbus” for Bishop Daily’s 18 years of service as supreme chaplain.
At the conclusion of the funeral liturgy, Bishop DiMarzio recalled the first time he met Bishop Daily. It was when Bishop DiMarzio was working for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Daily was the Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla.
“I went to Palm Beach to visit with the farm workers and I stayed with him and got some advice about working with the poor,” recalled Bishop DiMarzio.
He said Bishop Daily was a missionary priest at heart.
Following the funeral Mass, Bishop Daily’s casket was taken to the Bishops’ Chapel directly below the main chapel for a prayer service prior to interment in the Bishops’ Crypt, along with the five previous Bishops of Brooklyn.
Bishop DiMarzio explained that Bishop Daily had requested the position at the far right side of the crypt near the doorway so that he could his eye on what was going on.
The public was then invited to visit the bishop’s final resting place.
Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., served Bishop Daily in Brooklyn, first as his personal secretary, and then as an auxiliary bishop.
“It was a privilege for me to serve with him. He was just a marvel of a priest,” he said.
“Everything that a priest is all about, is what Bishop Daily was all about: a wonderful man, loved people, loved the poor. He was a very holy man.”
Not only was that Bishop Barbarito’s experience of him in Brooklyn, but also what he heard when he was later named to lead the Palm Beach Diocese that Bishop Daily had founded.
“The people down there love him to this day,” he said. “So many of them said to express their sympathies and love here at the funeral.”
Msgr. John Delendick, pastor of St. Jude Church, Canarsie, and FDNY chaplain, recalled the bishop as “a fine, compassionate man,” who cared deeply for New York’s Bravest.
“One of the things I admired him for, whenever we had a line-of-duty death with the Fire Department, he would always be the first phone call we’d have. He would offer his services, whatever he could do,” the monsignor said.
Few attendees at the funeral Mass had the distinction of knowing Bishop Daily in Boston, Palm Beach and Brooklyn. One of those people was his longtime friend and contemporary, Martin J. Moran, a Catholic fundraising executive from Greenpoint.
“Everybody loved Tom Daily. You know you’d always hear him before you’d see him,” he said laughing. “Charming, warm, friendly, and he never lost a friend. Anybody who was a friend of his would be his friend forever.”
The two men met when the future bishop was serving as secretary to Cardinal Humberto Sousa Medeiros, one of Moran’s early accounts. They shared their stories, and became such good friends that when Father Daily’s mother died, Moran went to the funeral.
“The Mass was mobbed. Cardinal (Bernard) Law was there. All of the priests were there,” he recalled.
“At the end of Mass, the (future) bishop goes to the podium and says, ‘When my brother was ordained, a woman came up to my mother and said, ‘Mrs. Daily, you have two sons who are priests. You’re going to have a great funeral.’
“So (Father) Daily closed by saying ‘Ma, you had a great funeral.’”
Their connection continued when Bishop Daily went to Palm Beach, where Moran had a house at the time. Then when Bishop Daily was named to succeed Bishop Francis J. Mugavero, Moran was delighted to welcome him to New York.
“He was a good guy,” Moran said. “Nobody better than Tom Daily. That’s why there’s such a mob here today. Everybody loved him.”
For those closest to the bishop, it was difficult to say goodbye. Dan Buzdughina had been the bishop’s health aide for the last five years, and cared for him as a son would care for his father.
“The pain is so deep in my heart,” said Buzdughina. “He was like my father.”
Even as his health declined, he said the bishop was very happy to meet people, visit the chapel and go to Mass.
“He was a good man. It’s a sad day, very, very sad,” he said.
Deacon Marco Lopez served as Bishop Daily’s personal secretary for nine years after the bishop retired.
“He was retired so he had time to really enjoy being bishop, to go out to the people, to take pictures with them. When we did services or Masses or confirmations, he loved it,” he said.
Not only did he love the people of Brooklyn and Queens, the deacon said, but he also loved the clergy who dedicated their lives to them.
Deacon Lopez was in the last class of men Bishop Daily ordained to the permanent diaconate. The bishop later taught him how to be his master of ceremonies, and occasionally tried to tell him how to drive.
“He used to call me Marco Polo. He had fun with that,” the deacon said. “When we used to go out, he’d say, ‘Go this way.’ I’d say ‘No, bishop, this way’s better.’ And he’d say, ‘I know you Marco Polo, you want to take your ways.’ We had fun.”
When the bishop could no longer attend various events, Deacon Lopez would go see him at the Bishop Mugavero Residence. They’d have coffee and the deacon would tell him stories about the adventures they had together.
“Sometimes he’d remember me and respond to me. That was good,” Deacon Lopez said.
Mary Ann Phelan’s late husband assisted Bishop Daily as a driver during his early years in Brooklyn.
“Jack drove him wherever he had to go,” said Phalen, a parishioner at St. Stanislaus Kostka, Maspeth.
“He liked Bishop Daily a lot. He was always happy and that made me like him too. So I said I have to come today to pay my respects. I told him, ‘Jack’s looking out for you.’”
Several women represented the diocesan Nigerian community by wearing traditional headscarves and dresses in green and white – the colors of the Nigerian flag.