Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Louis A. DeSimone died Friday, Oct. 5. He was 96.

Bishop Louis A. DeSimone, retired auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and pastor emeritus of St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia, died Friday morning, Oct. 5 at St. Thomas Monastery in Villanova following a brief illness.

He was 96, and the third oldest Catholic bishop in the United States.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m., preceded by a viewing at 9 a.m., at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will be the principal celebrant.

“I was saddened to learn of the death of Bishop DeSimone,” said the archbishop, who is attending the synod of bishops on youth in Rome and is returning to Philadelphia for the funeral. “He was a man of great energy, charity and joy who deeply touched all those he met in tremendously positive ways. Daily, he lived out his episcopal motto Servus Tuus (Your Servant) in his words and actions.

“I ask the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to offer prayers for Bishop DeSimone, and I invite our priests to offer Mass for the happy repose of his soul. We are all grateful for the gift of his life and his selfless service. May God grant him eternal life and give peace and consolation to all those who mourn his passing.”

Bishop DeSimone was born Feb. 21, 1922 and raised in Bridgeport, Montgomery County. After graduation from Bridgeport High School, he attended then-Villanova College.

Louis DeSimone as a young boy. (Courtesy the Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia)

With the United States embroiled in World War II, a young Louis DeSimone enlisted in the United States Army. Fluent in Italian, he was attached to the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Army and served as a translator with the rank of sergeant. For two years he saw active combat service during the North African and Italian campaigns.

While serving in Italy, military service took him to the Vatican where he met Pope Pius XII.

(See CatholicPhilly.com’s 2017 story of the bishop’s role in the war, here.) 

Upon his return to the United States, he was accepted as a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and later ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 10, 1952 by Cardinal John O’Hara.

After ordination, Father DeSimone taught at St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia and served as an assistant pastor at Annunciation B.V.M. and St. Donato Parishes in Philadelphia. He would also go on to serve as an assistant pastor and pastor at the former SS. Cosmas and Damian Parish in Conshohocken.

Sergeant Louis DeSimone, assigned as an Italian translator with the U.S. Fifth Army during the campaign in Italy in 1943-44, would later be ordained a priest and auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. (Courtesy the Catholic Historical Research Center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia)

In 1961 he became a member of the Archdiocesan Executive Committee of the Catholic Charities Appeal. In 1971 he became director of Catholic Relief Services in the Archdiocese — a post he would hold for 11 years. In 1975 Father DeSimone was appointed chairman of the Heritage Group Committee for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, which was held the following year in Philadelphia.

Father DeSimone was named a monsignor by then-Pope, now-Blessed Pope Paul VI, on March 22, 1976. That same year, he was appointed pastor of St. Monica Parish in South Philadelphia. He would serve as the beloved pastor there for 25 years.

On June 27, 1981 he was named auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia and Titular Bishop of Cillium by then-Pope, now-St. John Paul II. He was ordained a bishop on Aug. 12, 1981 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul with Cardinal John Krol serving as the principal consecrator and Bishops John Graham and Martin Lohmuller serving as co-consecrators.

In his retirement Bishop DeSimone remained active in the life of the church, and was as generous in charity as he was in friendship with many people in the archdiocese and beyond.

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Editor’s note: Check CatholicPhilly.com next week for a full obituary of Bishop DeSimone and coverage of his funeral Mass on Oct. 10.