TORONTO – Bernard Daly – author, journalist and one of the most influential lay members of the Catholic Church in Canada – died peacefully Jan. 2 at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto after losing a battle with cancer. He was 83.
Mr. Daly loved the Catholic Church and devoted most of his life to it. Through the years he maintained a particular interest in the role of the laity as “leaven in the dough” of the world. He spent 35 years working for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and then, after his retirement, returned to become editor and publisher of The Catholic Register, 1993-1996.
The funeral Mass was scheduled for Jan. 8 at Blessed John XXIII Parish in Toronto. Burial will take place later in the family plot at St. Camillus Parish cemetery at Farrellton, Quebec.
Mr. Daly was born April 16, 1925, in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He grew up on a farm near the little hamlet of Mayfair. He studied at St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatoon and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1945.
His first career was journalism and he spent 10 years at the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. During his time there he married Mae Strasser, and over their 60 years of marriage they raised six children.
In 1958, Daly’s career took a twist when was named to direct the new English Information Service of the Catholic bishops’ conference in Ottawa. He ended up covering all four sessions of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council in Rome, sending home daily dispatches on the momentous events taking place there.
Throughout his time at the bishops’ conference, he also wrote for church publications, including the Canadian Churchman, an Anglican publication based in Toronto, for which he wrote a monthly column from 1966 to 1972, and Columbia, the Knights of Columbus’ monthly magazine, for which he wrote a regular column from 1986 to 1991. He also wrote numerous opinion articles for publications as varied as Jesuit-run America and the Ottawa Journal.
Mr. Daly and his wife were part of the Christian Family Movement international program committee, 1958-1970. From 1963 into the 1970s they taught natural family planning, and Daly was named the first director of the bishops’ Family Life Bureau.
A man of intense curiosity who placed great importance on education, Daly continued his studies during his working career, earning a master’s degree in sociology from Carleton University in Ottawa in 1971.
Mr. Daly’s interest in family life and Catholic teaching led him into some high-level organizational work on behalf of the Catholic Church and its many agencies. It often took him into battle with elite opinion entrenched in Canada’s government bureaucracy.
As part of the Inter-Church Project on Population, Mr. Daly opposed the entry of the Zero Population Growth ideology into Health Canada and Immigration Canada policymaking.
He was an observer at the U.N. World Population Conference in Bucharest, Romania, 1974; the U.N. World Food Conference in Rome, 1974; and the U.N. World Conference on Human Habitation in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1976. In 1979 he was an observer at consultations on Southeast Asian refugees in Bangkok, Thailand, and again in Geneva.
In 1980, Mr. Daly was a drafter/translator with the Canadian delegation to the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican. He was on the bishops’ team preparing the 1984 papal visit to Canada and in 1985 was named the CCCB’s English assistant general secretary, the first layman in that post.
His writing – in both his books and editorials – emphasized the renewal of the Catholic Church as found in the teachings of Vatican II. He stressed that the laity needed to increase its knowledge of church teachings and use them to shape their own efforts to bring justice and compassion to the world’s public policy. To the end he was insistent that all Catholics had a duty to evangelize the world through lives of service.