Roman Catholic Bishop Carl A. Fisher, a former pastor of an East Baltimore church who was appointed the first black prelate in the Western United States, died yesterday in Los Angeles of cancer.
Bishop Fisher, who was 47, had battled cancer for more than two years. He was first diagnosed with colon cancer in April 1991, but he went into complete remission that November after surgery and chemotherapy treatments.
An examination last September revealed that the cancer had spread to his liver. He entered a hospice last month.
Two weeks ago, Bishop Fisher wrote a letter addressed to "my dearest loved ones," telling his friends, family and the people he served that he would soon die.
"It is with a profound and heavy heart that I write to you to thank you for the contributions which you have made to my life," he wrote. "I know that almighty God is a God of mystery, but after two years of struggle and suffering the time has come when our blessed Lord is calling me to an eternal reward in heaven."
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles said, "Bishop Fisher's death at such an early age bewilders us all, humanly speaking." He said Bishop Fisher would be buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles in a grave next to one reserved for him.
"As we labored together in life, so we will lie at rest together in death," the cardinal said.
Bishop Fisher was born and reared in Pascagoula, Miss. There were 12 children in the family. He decided at an early age that he wanted to be a priest, and at 14, he traveled to Newburgh, N.Y., to attend a high school seminary run by the Society of St. #F Joseph, a religious order that ministers to black communities.
He continued his education at Epiphany Apostolic College, also run by the Josephites, and studied theology at St. Joseph's Seminary and Oblate College, both in Washington.
He was ordained a priest on June 2, 1973, and was appointed associate pastor of Incarnation parish in Washington. In 1975, he was named associate pastor of St. Veronica parish in Cherry Hill in South Baltimore.
In 1982, he was named pastor of St. Francis Xavier. Although it is the country's oldest black Catholic parish, he was its first black pastor.
He was named by Pope John Paul II as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1987.
Services for Bishop Fisher will be offered at 11 a.m. Sept. 8 at St. Vibiana's Cathedral in Los Angeles.
He is survived by his mother, Evelyn Grant Fisher of Pascagoula; six brothers, Peter of Alexandria, Va., Joseph of Marrero, La., Earl, Lester, Paul and Timothy of Pascagoula; and four sisters, Ann Fisher Brown of Braintree, Mass., Sister Alexis Fisher, O.S.P., of Arbutus, Violet Fisher Lett of Moss Point, Miss., and Antoinette Fisher White of Gulfport, Miss.
The family suggested memorial contributions to the Oblate Sisters of Providence, 701 Gun Road, Baltimore, Md. 21227, or the Bishop Carl A. Fisher, S.S.J., Scholarship Fund, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, P.O. Box 876, Pascagoula, Miss. 39567.