Father Bernard Ihrie, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington for 65 years who served as pastor of two Maryland parishes – St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Camp Springs and St. Mary’s Parish in Bryantown – died of COVID-19 on June 6. He was 93 years old and died at a retirement residence in Fulton, Maryland.

Father Ihrie is the second priest of the archdiocese to die of COVID-19. Father Charles Green, another retired priest, died on April 26 at the age of 81 after being diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Washington Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fisher, who celebrated Father Ihrie’s Funeral Mass on June 13 at St. Philip the Apostle Church, told the Catholic Standard that he found the veteran priest “to be a kind and gentle soul devoted to his people.”

The homilist at Father Ihrie’s Funeral Mass, Msgr. Joseph Ranieri, had served with him when they were both young priests working at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville in the late 1950s, and they kept in touch over the years.

Msgr. Ranieri, the longtime coordinator of pastoral care for priests who serves as a liaison for retired priests, later said, “I saw Father Bernie Ihrie as a man of fidelity to his priesthood and the Church, of loyalty to his country, and of independence in his personality and the way he lived his life.”

In a 2015 interview with the Catholic Standard, Father Ihrie reflected on his 60th anniversary as a priest that year, saying, “The greatest blessing really is getting to know so many people and have so many friends.” 

Father Ihrie retired in 1997 after serving as pastor of St. Philip the Apostle in Camp Springs from 1983-91, and then serving for six years as a senior priest there. He earlier was pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bryantown from 1970-81. 

A licensed pilot, he served as a chaplain for the U.S. Air Force from 1961-67, where he was stationed stateside and in Taiwan. Earlier, he was a chaplain for the District Air National Guard. The Washington native attended Gonzaga College High School and during World War II served as a Navy medic at Bethesda Naval Hospital. 

After attending St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1955, and over the years, he served as a parochial vicar at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, St. Mark the Evangelist in Hyattsville, and Holy Redeemer in Kensington. 

During his priesthood, Father Ihrie said he especially liked giving sermons. “I enjoyed bringing Christ to others in a way I thought they could understand. That’s what I was ordained to do,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed hearing Confessions, “not only bringing the word of Christ, but bringing the mercy of Christ to people who need it as much as I do.”

For much of his retirement, Father Ihrie lived in Edgewater, Maryland. Once a month, he would return to St. Philip the Apostle Parish to celebrate a Mass and give a talk for the special religious education program. A former season ticket holder for Washington Capital games, he enjoyed watching hockey on television and reading murder mystery novels. 

Father Ihrie said he sent and received about 200 Christmas cards each year, staying connected with friends he met throughout his priesthood. “It’s nice to keep in touch,” he said. “You have a family really, you have so many close friends.”

Father Ihrie was interred in his family’s plot at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, Maryland. In a letter to priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, Archbishop Wilton Gregory said he would celebrate a Memorial Mass for Father Ihrie with archdiocesan priests at a later date when local government restrictions on the sizes of public gatherings are lifted.