Tim Johnson, our editor, kindly asked if I would share a few words in order to observe May 1, 25 years to the day of my installation as the eighth bishop of this diocese.
My thoughts are of thanksgiving to God for the gift of presiding over this beloved See for a quarter of a century.
Everything that has been accomplished is the fruit of the grace, won for us at great cost by Christ Our Savior.
I give thanks to all those with whom it was my privilege to serve. Demanding years, surely, involving serious decisions. Decisions not always understood, but guided by the Holy Spirit. Overall, my reflections are ones of joy and gratitude. What a joy and privilege to have served as pastor of this historic See.
People ask, “How are you doing?” I always say I am “adjusting,” and that is true. During Lent, I gave several parish missions and heard many confessions. In a few weeks I will preach a retreat to the bishops of Michigan and Ohio. I will give a retreat for sisters in June and two retreats are set for priests in the months ahead.
So it is somewhat like the life I had as an auxiliary bishop with emphasis on things at the heart of the priestly vocation: Hearing Confessions, preaching, retreats and Days of Prayer, and taking part in parish missions. A busy life, and very beautiful, and close to the reasons we became priests. Spiritual formation: The area in which I was trained. So, still busy but a less frenzied pace and a chance to walk more than in the past.
Do you miss it?
This is another question that comes. Of course, I miss it. Does a man miss his wife when she is no longer with him? The ancient idea of a bishop is that he is married to his diocese. You carry it in your heart for all these years, sharing the ministry with the priests, consulting parish laity and religious. You are giving up a relationship which is a service of love. But the love continues and you serve the Church and the diocese by prayer, and the ministry of preaching and teaching, and the sacramental ministry of giving Confirmation and celebrating the Eucharist. (I have 19 Confirmations this spring.) I feel this new life growing. I can attend to my number one goal after retirement: More prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and good spiritual reading. All of which helps one’s homilies and helps one also in the confessional. The more attuned any priest or bishop is to Christ in prayer and reading, the more effective he will be.
I have made a little progress on the computer. The effort to learn Spanish is not fully launched, but plans are being made.
I am very encouraged, as we all are, by our hard working, very able, and pastorally devoted Bishop Rhoades, who is surely giving his whole heart and soul to this diocese.
Now, wouldn’t you be disappointed if I did not speak of a certain baseball team. Alas, it seems like it will be the “summer of our discontent” for the Red Sox. So far they have not contacted me to pitch batting practice. I am ready if they call.
I remember May 1, 25 years ago with joy and gratitude. My dear mother was present with my three sisters and their families. I give thanks to God for His grace, which helped us face the decisions and challenges that awaited. I pray for you all every day and extend to you my gratitude and love.
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