The funeral mass for Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, the 13th Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo was held Friday in St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. Kmiec, who held the post from 2004 to 2012, died on July 11 after a brief illness.
Kmiec had resided as Bishop Emeritus in the St. Joseph's Cathedral Rectory, where a diocesan statement said he had been in declining health for months.
With social distancing in place and no member of the general public in attendance, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, presided over the Mass as the Most Rev. Edward Scharfenberger, the Diocese of Buffalo's apostolic adminstrator, served as the primary celebrant. Dolan offered the rite of committal.
Kmiec was ordained as a priest in 1961 at the age of 25 in Trenton, New Jersey. He became Auxiliary Bishop in Trenton in 1982, was installed as Bishop of Nashville in 1992 and then became Bishop of Buffalo in 2004.
It was Kmiec's former secretary, Monsignor David LiPuma, who delivered the eulogy. Monsignor LiPuma noted that upon his ordainment into Episcopacy in 1982, Kmiec adopted the motto "charity and service." He recalled Kmiec as a man who loved food and conversation, appreciating dishes from Clams Casino to a bologna sandwich.
He also celebrated Kmiec's ability to speak in conversations on many subjects, and with people of various walks of life.
"We would often be the last ones to leave any diocesan events. And he would often start speaking to the servers and the maintenance people, as they were breaking down the chairs and the tables," LiPuma said. "It didn't matter who you were, or what you did for a living. Everyone was treated with the same love and respect, charity and service."
Bishop Kmiec, while heading the Diocese of Buffalo, declared in 2007 the diocese had emerged from a more than $2 million deficit and had balanced its budget. He is also remembered for leading a large-scale downsizing of parishes and schools. Between 2005 and 2011, through closures and mergers, the diocese went from 274 parishes and missions to 170. More than 20 schools were also closed during that period.
In May 2012, as Kmiec reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the bishop's resignation. Kmiec was replaced the following August by Bishop Richard Malone.
Monsignor LiPuma stated during the funeral that if not for the distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Joseph's Cathedral would surely be filled by more people who would come to pay final respects. He offered a message to the congregation in light of the pandemic and recent social unrest.
"With all that is going on today in our Church, in our country and our world, the best thing that we can all do today is to leave this cathedral, and honor the memory and legacy of our beloved Bishop Kmiec by simply being kind to all those we meet along the way," he said.
Following the services, Kmiec was entombed in the Bishops' Crypt in the cathedral.
(Click below for streaming video of Bishop Kmiec's funeral. The first hour features a combination of English and Polish language hymns, with the ceremony itself beginning at approximately 1:01:00.)