"Among his brother bishops, Archbishop Pilarczyk was recognized as one of the outstanding churchmen of his time," said his successor, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati. "They elected him not only president of what was then the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, but also chair of every significant committee of the bishops' conference."
Ordained a priest in 1959, Pilarczyk was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Cincinnati in 1974, serving also as the vicar general for the archdiocese.
In 1982, he became the archbishop of Cincinnati, succeeding Joseph Bernardin who was appointed Archbishop of Chicago. At the time of his retirement in 2009, Pilarczyk was then the longest-tenured archbishop in the U.S., having served for 27 years.
In that time, he also served as vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, now the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from 1986 until 1989. That was followed by a three-year term as president of the conference until 1992, as the U.S. prepared to host its first World Youth Day in Denver in the summer of 1993.
Pilarczyk also served in a number of national positions, including as the chair of the conference's Committee on Doctrine from 1996 until 2000, chair of the Committee on Liturgy from 1984 to 1986, and chair of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from 1991 to 1997.
The archbishop also served as the chairman of the board of trustees for the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., from 1988 until 1990.