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Bishop Choby of Nashville dies at age 70 after a long illness

Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, Tenn., known for his pastoral care and ecumenical work, died June 3 at age 70. He is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Nashville)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) -- Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville died June 3 at St. Thomas West Hospital where he was undergoing treatment for injuries that he sustained in a fall at his home Feb. 7. He was 70.

Visitation was set for June 8 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, concluding with the Office of the Dead evening prayer service. On June 9, an afternoon visitation at St. John Vianney Church was to be followed by recitation of the rosary.

The funeral Mass for Bishop Choby was to be celebrated June 10 at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville, followed by burial at Calvary Cemetery.

When he fell, Bishop Choby suffered a cut on the back of his head and damage to his vertebrae. He was taken by ambulance to Skyline Medical Center for initial treatment and later transferred to St. Thomas West Hospital, where his regular doctors practice.

The bishop underwent a series of tests to determine the extent of the injury to his back when a serious infection developed. He was successfully treated for that infection, and had a surgical procedure in preparation for an operation to repair the broken vertebrae May 12.

Following his spinal operation to repair the vertebrae, Bishop Choby made steady neurologic progress, but the blood infections persisted. Soon after the surgery, he was able to get out of his bed for the first time since the fall, and was eventually able to sit in a chair for long periods of time.

During his treatment after the fall, the bishop told many friends and family members that he enjoyed spending time with them and that he was at peace.

On June 1, Bishop Choby's doctors performed a procedure to remove his pacemaker and internal defibrillator along with their leads because of recurring blood infections. His physician team expected the procedure to be beneficial in both the short and long term, and continued to treat the infection.

Complications of the infection resulted in his death at about 10 p.m. June 3.

"Bishop Choby was not only a brother priest but a dear friend for the last 18 years, especially during the almost 12 years during which he served as the 11th bishop of Nashville," Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, said in a statement.

"His engaging style, his keen intellect, especially in matters related to canon law, and most of all his warm personality, will be greatly missed," said Archbishop Kurtz, who first got to know Bishop Choby when he was serving as the Bishop of Knoxville.

"Bishop Choby was a thoroughly gracious gentleman and churchman. Bishop Choby leaves a legacy of true pastoral care for all," added Archbishop Kurtz, former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "I will miss him as a fellow bishop, a good friend, and a true disciple of Jesus Christ."

Bishop Choby was born in Nashville and baptized in the Cathedral of Incarnation where he was ordained a bishop. He was the son of Raymond and Rita Choby, both deceased. He is survived by his only sibling, Diane C. Dyche of Fort Worth, Texas. He attended Catholic schools growing up, graduating from Father Ryan High School in 1965.

After spending one year at Aquinas College in Nashville, he entered the seminary at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa. He also studied at The Catholic University of America in Washington before being ordained as a priest Sept. 6, 1974, by Bishop Joseph A. Durick at St. Henry Church in Nashville.

He served a number of assignments in the Diocese of Nashville. He was associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Madison, administrator of St. Ann Parish, Nashville, and spent three years in residence at Christ the King Parish, also in Nashville, while working at the diocesan tribunal. From 1989 until his ordination as bishop, he served as pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Gallatin, where he was active in the community and in the local ministerial association.

Bishop Choby held a canon law degree from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and worked at the Nashville diocesan tribunal throughout most of his priesthood. He was on the faculty of the Pontifical College Josephinum, a seminary in Columbus, Ohio, between 1984 and 1989. He served on the seminary's board. He served two five-year terms on the diocese's priests' council and the college of consultors.

Bishop Choby was elected as diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Nashville by the college of consultors in 2004 after Bishop Edward U. Kmiec was installed as the bishop of Buffalo, New York. Bishop Choby was installed 14 months later as the 11th bishop of Nashville, on Feb. 27, 2006. He was only the second priest of the diocese's 169-year history to become its bishop; the others have all come from outside the diocese.

He was the first bishop of Nashville to die while in office since Bishop Alphonse J. Smith in 1935.

During Bishop Choby's years as bishop of Nashville, the diocese saw a boom in the number of seminarians and ordinations of new priests. He ordained at least one new priest every year he was bishop and ordained a total of 28 new priests. Also, individual parishes embarked on construction projects during his tenure.

Just as he recruited seminarians from around the world, he also expanded the diocese's efforts to serve various ethnic communities.

For example, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Nashville was founded as a parish for Spanish speakers. Bishop Choby also established the Church of the Korean Martyrs to serve the Korean Catholic community, and provided space in the Catholic Pastoral Center for the Coptic Catholic and Burmese Catholic communities to have regular liturgies.

They joined other ethnic communities such as the Vietnamese, Nigerian, Haitian, Sudanese and native French speakers who celebrate liturgies together regularly.

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