Joseph P. McFadden visited the lower anthracite region frequently in the three years since his appointment as the bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg in 2010.

In fact, he was due in Mount Carmel this Sunday to perform the Sacrament of Confirmation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

That event has been postponed, however, with the news that the 65-year-old bishop died unexpectedly Thursday morning in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Local priests and parishioners, who described McFadden as energetic, friendly, full of faith and "a great shepherd," are in shock.

"We were honored to have the bishop visit our parish a few times," said the Rev. Francis Karwacki, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. "He was very energetic and spent his time and energy to the fullest watching over his flock in the Diocese of Harrisburg. His death is very shocking and he will be sorely missed."

Pat Grybos, a parishioner and employee at the church, said McFadden had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

"And he was taken away from us in May, which is Mary's month," he said.

A memorial featuring a portrait of the bishop, along with flowers and candles, was set up Thursday in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

Loved local Easter eggs

The Rev. Martin Kobos, pastor of Mother Cabrini Church, Shamokin, said he found McFadden to be very personable.

"He was a faith-filled man who related to people very well," he said. "One never knows what the day will bring, but I'm sure he was ready when God called him."

Kobos recalled the bishop having a fondness for Mother Cabrini's coconut and peanut butter Easter eggs.

"We presented him with Easter eggs during one of his visits to our church and he kept ordering them every year for his family and friends," he said.

Clara Bartlinski, an active member of Mother Cabrini Church, who presented McFadden with his first Easter eggs on behalf of the church, was broken-hearted and began crying when informed of the bishop's sudden death.

"He was such a lovable and congenial man," Bartlinski said. "I just can't believe he's dead. I'm very distraught."

Bartlinski said McFadden loved talking to children and was respected by everyone.

"He was really down to Earth," she said.

Deacon Robert Mack, who serves Our Lady of Hope Church in Coal Township and St. Patrick Church in Trevorton, noted he and the bishop both attended St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and had "shared some stories."

"I talked to him several times and he was a great shepherd for our diocese," Mack said.

The Rev. Andrew Stahmer, pastor of Holy Angels Church in Kulpmont, said "we lost a good shepherd."

"We need to pray to the Holy Spirit to provide us with another spiritual shepherd who will continue to always lead God's church in the right direction," Stahmer said.

Eight days to act

The governance of the Diocese of Harrisburg passed to the College of Consultors upon his death. They will have eight days to elect an administrator who will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the diocese until a new bishop is appointed by Pope Francis.

Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church in Elysburg will hold a Holy Hour with prayer and benediction for Bishop McFadden at 5 p.m. Sunday in the chapel.

Additional memorials and special services are being planned at other churches throughout the diocese.