Joe Paterno, whose 46 years as Penn State's head coach was tainted by a child sex-abuse scandal, died Jan. 22 at age 85. Shortly after his dismissal in November, Paterno, who is Catholic, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He is pictured in 1998 celebrating his 300th career win at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. CNS photo/stringer via Reuters

Bishop eulogizes a faithful Catholic in Joe Paterno

By  Msgr. Timothy P. Stein, Catholic News Service
  • January 24, 2012

ALTOONA, Pa. - Although Joe Paterno will be remembered as "a legend throughout our region and throughout our country," Bishop Mark  Bartchak said the iconic football coach will be best remembered in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown as "a good Catholic, a family man and a friend to many."

Bartchak made his comments Jan. 22 at a news conference at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, prior to a prayer service celebrating Respect for Life.

Paterno, 85, died that morning at Mount Nittany Medical Centre in State College, just 10 weeks after the Nov. 18 announcement that he was suffering from lung cancer. That announcement came nine days after Paterno's 61-year career at Penn State University was terminated in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

"Faith and family were so important to Joe Paterno," said Bartchak. "Joe's commitment to prayer, family and faith was a great example to the students at Penn State," and will leave a lasting impact, he said.

Bartchak expressed his appreciation for the efforts Paterno and his wife, Sue, made to support the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, particularly their leadership in raising funds for the new Catholic campus ministry centre now under construction at Penn State. The Paternos served as chair couple for the capital campaign to build the centre "and were major contributors themselves," the bishop noted.

The centre, which is set for a spring opening, is being named the Suzanne Pohland Paterno Catholic Student Faith Centre in Sue Paterno's honour.

Bartchak also noted that Joe and Sue Paterno and their family "were great supporters" of St. Joseph's Catholic Academy, the diocese's newest Catholic high school, which opened in Boalsburg last September.

Bartchak also paid tribute to Sue Paterno, calling her a "self-assured and confident lady, who when she believes in a cause gives herself to that cause 100 per cent."

The bishop asked those mourning Paterno's death to focus their thoughts "on the loss within his family, and support them."

Questioned as to how he would advise Paterno's fans to deal with their grief at his death, Bartchak said he would do just what he did when he recently met a student at a Catholic school who confided that he had just lost his grandfather.

"A warm hug, a short prayer together and the assurance that things will get better" is how Bartchak described his response to the grieving youngster.

"That's what I'd offer to anyone grieving the death of Joe Paterno," Bartchak reflected. "I believe Joe himself would view things that way — that with prayer and the assurance of faith, things will get better."

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.