Statement from the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, On the Death of Bishop Emeritus Donald W. Trautman
I first got to know Bishop Trautman during my time serving as a priest representative on the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. He was always a very gracious person who always had a sincere interest in the people he met.
I knew of the hard work he had done on the Bishop’s Liturgy Committee. That work meant a great deal to him. He had a wonderful background in Scripture, a subject he taught at the seminary in Buffalo. Many of his students still remember him from those days. He was a great teacher.
Anyone who knew him knows the priesthood was very important to him.
When I first visited the diocese as the bishop-elect, I could see he was very proud of the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Erie. This had been his life. He gave himself totally to his role as bishop.
He wore many hats: pastor, administrator, professor, rector, auxiliary bishop and finally, bishop. He had a full life of service to the church. He was deeply committed to the pastoral care of the priests of his diocese as well as the people. I’m sure it was difficult when he had to let go of those responsibilities.
His final years brought many trials. There will be those who say he should have done more when it came to clergy sexual abuse. At the same time, there will be those who say he received too much blame.
As Pope Francis likes to say, we are all sinners. Certainly at this time, we can look at flaws and failures on anyone’s part. It’s easy to look at a life from today’s perspective rather than in its historical context. All of us could have done better, myself included. Knowing Bishop Trautman, he did what he thought was the best he could do for the good of the people and the church.
As I visited Bishop Trautman these last few years, I could see how he gradually began to mellow. Early on, he was always interested in what was happening in the diocese and wanted to talk about business. But as time went on, his interests became more personal. He wanted to talk about the people we knew and about the challenges he was facing as his health declined.
He maintained his interest in the lives of those who came to see him. He was very pastoral, even when he had become the patient. In his Christmas card this year, he made reference to his room as a cell. I thought about that as the cell of a monk. I could see that he took advantage of these last months and weeks to reflect and to prepare himself more fully for eternal life.
May perpetual light shine upon him.