WILKES-BARRE — Calling him “a true priest,” His Eminence Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Monday made good on his promise to his dear friend, “Bernie,” by being the principal celebrant at Monsignor Bernard E. Yarrish’s funeral.
With 200 people in attendance at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church/Our Lady of Hope Parish on Park Avenue, Dolan said Yarrish asked him to be the celebrant at his funeral.
“That was 10 years ago,” Dolan said. “My friend, Bernie, asked me to celebrate his funeral Mass. He said I should keep it short and to make it about Jesus.”
Dolan recalled a June 2000 visit to Rome when Yarrish was the celebrant at a Mass. He said Yarrish, whose legs were already beginning to weaken, had to walk down three steps from the altar to the podium.
“His legs were very wobbly,” Dolan said. “And he began to fall. He caught himself before his head would have struck the marble altar.”
Dolan said Yarrish apologized for being such a distraction and decided to give his sermon while clinging to the altar.
“The altar stands for Jesus,” Dolan said. “On the altar that was Calvary, with his hands and feet nailed to that cross, Jesus was never more of a priest. There he was, a man who at first appeared weak, his strength on that cross made the earth quake. And at that moment, when thought to be powerless, Jesus put Satan on the run.”
Dolan said, like Jesus, Yarrish never complained about his weakening condition.
“Bernie, you are an icon to us,” Dolan said. “You are saving more souls now than ever.”
Dolan said Yarrish and the late St. Pope John Paul II would often talk in Polish. He said the two knew each other and liked each other.
“Bernie was a man of selfless charity,” Dolan said. “He always offered encouragement.”
Bambera said the Scranton Diocese and its 120 parishes in 11 counties deeply feel the loss of Monsignor Yarrish.
“We have lost one of the best,” Bambera said. “It will be hard to let him go.”
Bambera said Yarrish was known around the world.
“He was a wise confidant, a fun guy, a true priest,” Bambera said. “He always made sure my head never got too big.”
Dolan told the family and friends gathered to give thanks for Yarrish’s life and to remember the cross.
“Remember who he was to all of us,” he said. “He taught us faith, he taught us about God and he taught us the meaning of the cross.”
Yarrish, who had been residing at Little Flower Manor, died on Wednesday, June 6, at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.
Yarrish, son of the late Stanley A. and Blanche Kaminski Yarrish, was born in Wilkes-Barre on Jan. 8, 1951. He received his early education at Marymount Grammar School and Marymount High School. He graduated from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre in 1972. He completed his formation for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1976, by the Most Rev. Leo T. Maher, D.D., then Bishop of San Diego, Calif.
As Monsignor Yarrish’s health began to decline, he left his position as Vice-Rector of the North American College in 2000, after nine years of service, to return to his beloved home diocese and his appointment as pastor of Saint Boniface Parish in Wilkes-Barre.
He is survived by two brothers, Stanley and wife, Nancy, and Joseph and wife, Mary; and several nieces and nephews. Interment was in Saint Mary of the Maternity Cemetery, West Wyoming.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.