Today I learned that Bishop Pat Ziemann died yesterday at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Arizona. A few weeks ago I learned of his illness and pending death. He was dying of pancreatic cancer. Bishop Pat, as I called him, is as a monsignor referred to him, “head and shoulders above the rest.” This bishop was crucified like Christ, not guilty of any sins against children, but of a personal indiscretion with an adult who tried to blackmail him. He suffered and now he’s gone.
A few days earlier Fr. Gordon MacRae asked for prayers for a bishop who was dying of pancreatic cancer. He would not say who the bishop was because of the bishop's concern that the media and agenda - driven groups would use this information for their own ends.
*Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I met Bishop Pat eight months ago at the monastery where he resided. He was an humble figure, a man, a priest, who cheerfully waited on tables and washed dishes after dinner. There were quite a few visitors at the monastery. Most were there in their splendiferous motor homes parked on monastery property. They come yearly to help the monks repair, paint, etc. and to enjoy the quietness, the spirituality, the interaction with Bishop Pat and others.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I was introduced to Bishop Pat by a longtime friend of his, Dolores Crowley. She and her late husband, Dr. John Crowley, spent many wonderful times with Bishop Pat. They did not desert the bishop after his fall from grace. We visited him at the monastery and he told me that his fall was the best thing that could have happened to him. He said, “It put me back in touch with my spirituality. As a bishop I was too focused on management... (and other tangibles).” Now he had dispensed with all of the trappings of being a bishop and humbly served others dining at the monastery. I was very impressed with his humility. On our last night in Benson Bishop Pat took us out to dinner at one of his favorite Mexican tiendas. What a fun evening it was. We ate and laughed. I hear his laughter now. I see his smile.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
Dolores was visiting me when she brought up her home newspaper on her computer.
She looked at me in shock and gasped, “Bishop Pat is dying!”
And then I was in shock! What on earth was she talking about? Bishop Pat dying? Yet, from her ashen face I knew she was not joking. Who could joke about such a thing? I sank down on the nearest sofa and waited for an explanation. I barely understood what she said. It was something about the Press Democrat, pancreatic cancer, few weeks to live, and we both began to cry. Not Bishop Pat. Not the gentle, humble man I had come to know and love. Not the man designated by a friend of his to head a group to assist priests coming out of prison and with no place to go. His friend envisioned setting up a place isolated from the likes of SNAP, VOTF and the media; a safe place where priests released from prison could go to reorder their lives, figure out what they wanted to do in the future, and be safe from those who feel it’s their duty to cause these men to suffer for the rest of their lives. He wanted medical personnel in place, spiritual advisers, psychologists, and any therapists the priests would need in order to succeed in the next phase of their broken lives. Bishop Pat won’t be here to head the innovative and desperately needed organization, but his imprint is on the man who conceived the idea, the man who attended the seminary with Bishop Pat, the man who decided not to become a priest, but whose “brother," Bishop Pat, made him the caring man that he is today.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
A few nights after we placed a call to Bishop Pat, he returned our call. His voice was weak. He apologized to Dolores for not telling her himself of his fatal illness. I told him how much it meant to me to meet him and to spend a few days at the monastery. I wanted to ask for his blessing, but I could hear that it was an effort for him to speak. I tried unsuccessfully to choke back tears. I managed to tell Bishop Pat that I loved him, and I handed the phone to Dolores. She told him that her husband, John, will be standing at the gates of heaven to greet him. Bishop Pat said he was ready to go to his heavenly home. I’ve never blessed a bishop before, but in my heart I blessed Bishop Pat. May he go in peace. May he rest in peace.
No, the letter Z in the title of this blog does not represent Bishop Pat’s last name. The Greek letter Z means he lives. Bishop Patrick Ziemann will never die, for he lives on in the hearts of those who know and love him.
*"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep," Mary E. Frye