Satafi in Mauretania Caesariensi was a town in the western part of modern Algeria, and its chief claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of Marcus Opellius Macrinus who succeeded Caracalla as emperor, albeit for just 14 months. Because the Berbers there eventually were Islamicized, it was ripe as a defunct diocese to become the Titular See of George Edward Lynch (1917-2003) when he was ordained auxiliary bishop of Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1970. He retired 15 years later without having had a diocese of his own, save for that vague, arid African abstraction, but to thousands he was a most convincing specimen of apostolic succession as the vibrant DNA of the Faith.
Born in New York, he assumed that he would be a priest there, but soon enough he was recruited as a missionary in North Carolina, which to most New Yorkers in his time was as exotic as Satafi in Mauretania Caeasariensi. The Archdiocese of New York had an overplus of priests as the Diocese of Raleigh had an underplus, and soon after World War II George Lynch was inviting others to join him as priests where Catholics were rare and often unwelcome. Although he led opposition to racial segregation prudently and without strife, his work for civil rights did not make Catholicism blend into the cultural fabric. In 15 years as auxiliary bishop, he was able to see the fruits of his labor in the coalescence of a New South, and in retirement he was vigorous enough to take up a new cause when he returned to live with his sister in New York.
He latched on to the precedent of Thomas Lynch (no relation), one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as a model of the men who would “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” I have a copy of his personal transcript of those words, in handwriting as neat and precise as he was in figure and regimen, tall and white-haired with a gentle manner and soft speech more Carolina than Bronx. Over the years of his work with Operation Rescue, he was arrested many times around the United States and abroad, including Russia. The circumstances of his confinement often were harsh, and yet he enjoyed the chance to evangelize men who were imprisoned for less altruistic acts. During a demonstration outside an abortion center in West Hartford, Connecticut, he was severely beaten by policemen who had removed their nameplates and badges.
It was during his sabbatical in Rome a few years before his retirement that I got to know him, he celebrating Mass and I preaching in the church of our patron San Giorgio in Velabro. At the time I was most conscious that it had been the titular church of Cardinal Newman, but now I also think of it for Bishop Lynch having offered the Holy Sacrifice there.