By Tim Johnson and Kay Cozad
FORT WAYNE — The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend opened a new chapter in its history on Jan. 13 as Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was installed as its ninth bishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Just before the Mass of Installation, outside of the cathedral, Bishop Rhoades was greeted by well-wishers, offered blessings and answered the media’s questions.
“I feel calm,” Bishop Rhoades shared with Today’s Catholic just moments before the ancient Church tradition, a knock on the cathedral door. He was greeted by Msgr. Robert Schulte, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception who said, “Welcome.”
Inside the cathedral before the Mass, the standing-room-only congregation of family, friends, diocesan parishioners and others from around the world waited in hushed anticipation as the diocesan choir and the Cathedral Brass, under the direction of Michael Dulac, performed a heavenly prelude. The overflow crowd was directed to the Grand Wayne Center where they could witness the installation via a big screen TV.
As the Mass of Installation began, 175 priests from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and from the Diocese of Harrisburg and Maryland processed to the sanctuary robed in cream and gold vestments. The procession included 23 bishops, three archbishops and three cardinals: Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington D.C.; Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia; and Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore. All processed to the sanctuary flanked by the honor guard of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, metropolitan archbishop of Indianapolis, opened the Mass and presided at the installation rite.
Retiring Bishop John M. D’Arcy offered the welcome, and said, “This is a great joy, a special moment for our diocese. …”
Bishop D’Arcy spoke of living in a moment of faith, “experiencing a great catechetical lesson of the nature of the church and the ancient Office of Bishop.” He said the presence of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio who is the official representative of Pope Benedict XVI, brings the diocese close to Pope Benedict XVI, Successor of Peter. It was an opportunity, Bishop D’Arcy said, to learn about the episcopal office. He quoted St. Augustine that the role of a bishop is not the name of an honor, but is a work or a great service.
Bishop D’Arcy cited Vatican II and said the council lays out for us “our response, the response of this total church, to a new bishop – one sent by God. As for the faithful, it says, they should be closely attached to the bishop as the church is to Jesus Christ and as Jesus Christ is to the Father.”
Following Bishop D’Arcy’s welcome remarks, Archbishop Buechlein wished Bishop D’Arcy well in his retirement and extended a Hoosier welcome to Bishop Rhoades. He then welcomed Archbishop Sambi, who greeted those present and spoke of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a great bishop of the early Church whose feast day was celebrated Jan. 13.
Archbishop Sambi said St. Hilary defended “the divinity of that Child (Jesus), writing works of wisdom and learning to strengthen the Catholic faith and interpret sacred Scripture.
Archbishop Sambi recounted Pope Benedict’s words to bishops two years ago when he visited the U.S.: “People today need to be reminded of the ultimate purpose of their lives. They need to recognize that implanted within them is a deep thirst for God. They need to be given opportunities to drink from the wells of his infinite love. …”
The nuncio congratulated Bishop Rhoades for “accepting the call to serve. … Indeed, we are confident that, through your zealous episcopal ministry and the prayerful intercession of St. Hilary, you will be an effective proclaimer of the saving truth of the Gospel and a faithful witness to Christ our hope, bringing many blessing to your clergy, religious and laity and also to the community at large.”
Archbishop Sambi also thanked Bishop D’Arcy “for your faithful priestly-episcopal ministry: 53 years a priest, 35 years a bishop, almost 25 years bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and, more recently, this diocese’s apostolic administrator. Your excellency, may your apostolic labors for the sake of the Gospel continue to bear abundant fruit for the people of God.”
Following the reading of the apostolic letter proclaiming the appointment, Msgr. Schulte offered the letter to the diocesan College of Consulters and notarized by the chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Bishop Rhoades was then escorted to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, by Archbishop Sambi and Archbishop Buechlein, and handed his crosier, a pastoral staff of gold, thus assuming the episcopacy of the diocese. Several representatives from the community greeted the new bishop in welcome to his pastoral post.
During Bishop Rhoades’ homily he began by asking the faithful to pray a Hail Mary for “our brothers and sisters in Haiti who are suffering from yesterday’s (Jan. 12) devastating earthquake. Let us pray together for the victims and their families.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of the day’s Gospel from Mark 1:14-20 when Jesus called the apostles: they were “fishermen casting and mending their nets along the Sea of Galilee. They were ordinary men, busy with their daily work, but suddenly their lives changed. They met Jesus of Nazareth who said to them: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
He spoke of his 26 and a half years as a priest and five years in episcopal ministry mostly in his home diocese of Harrisburg.
“I thank our Lord for the many joys and blessings of those years and for the privilege I had of serving His Church in that beautiful portion of the Lord’s vineyard,” he said. “But just as through the years, Peter, Andrew, James and John were called to proclaim the Gospel and carry on their apostolic mission in new lands, so too I have been called to serve in a new diocese and a new state. It is certainly a privilege to have been appointed by Pope Benedict, the successor of St. Peter, to be the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, another beautiful portion of the vineyard of the Lord.”
He spoke of his sadness over leaving his family and friends from the Harrisburg area. But “I come here with excitement and enthusiasm to promote the new evangelization in this wonderful diocese where I have been so warmly welcomed.”
Bishop Rhoades reaffirmed his commitment to his episcopal motto, “to proclaim the truth in charity.” He said, “These words of St. Paul remind us of our mission: to profess the truth in charity.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “Our duty is to bear witness to the truth of the apostolic faith we have received and to act as witnesses of the Gospel in word and deed. I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul to one of his successors, one of the first bishops of the Church, St. Timothy: ‘Never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.’
“This is an important exhortation for us today, living in a culture of increasing secularism and relativism, a society in which the Catholic faith is increasingly countercultural,” he added.
He spoke of St. Hilary of Poitiers, a bishop who lived in one of the most challenging times in the history of the Church, when the heresy of Arianism was spreading rapidly throughout the world. Bishop Hilary devoted his whole life to fighting the scourge of this heresy and to defending the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was forced to leave his diocese when he was sentenced to exile by the emperor who was Arian. When Bishop Hilary was released from exile, he returned to his diocese where he was received with great joy. There he restored discipline, peace, and the purity of the Catholic faith.
Bishop Rhoades said, “As I begin my episcopal ministry in Fort Wayne-South Bend, I wish to reaffirm our mission as Catholics and my mission as shepherd of this local Church: the mission of professing the truth in charity. Ultimately, that mission is to lead people to an encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ. In its essence, the truth of the Gospel is a Person – the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the Truth that sets us free. We are to proclaim Him in our words and actions. We are called to be instruments of His presence and action in the world. We are called to evangelize, to share with others the truth about God, about the human person, and about the world. The Church is the seed and the beginning of the kingdom of God and the place where we enter into true communion and friendship with Jesus Christ.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades expressed his gratitude: “I am grateful to all who helped nourish my faith and my vocation through the years, beginning with my beloved parents who I pray are sharing in my joy today from heaven.” He thanked all for their presence, his friends from Pennsylvania and other places, as well as his new friends from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
He thanked Archbishop Sambi and asked him to convey to Pope Benedict XVI the prayerful support of his flock in Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Bishop Rhoades was honored by the presence of the three cardinals. Archbishop William Keeler ordained Bishop Rhoades to the priesthood in 1983. At that time, Cardinal Keeler was the auxiliary bishop of Harrisburg. The two of them share the same diocese, the same home parish and the same schools in Lebanon, Pa.
He thanked Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, who ordained Bishop Rhoades a bishop in 2004. “I have been so blessed to serve with Cardinal Rigali in Pennsylvania and to learn so much from him these past five years. Your Eminence, thank you for your example to me, your faithfulness to God’s will, and love for Christ’s Church,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He also thanked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, D.C. “He was a strong supporter of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary when I was rector there. …”
To Archbishop Buechlein, who installed Bishop Rhoades, he noted, “I look forward with joyful anticipation to serving with you in this wonderful province of Indiana. Thank you for your warm welcome to me.”
And Bishop Rhoades added, “I could not have received a warmer and more gracious welcome than that which I received from our beloved bishop, John D’Arcy. … I can honestly say that in the last two months we have become very good friends and I look forward to that friendship growing in years ahead, and I look forward to Bishop D’Arcy’s help and ministry here in many years to come.”
To the priests who serve in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Bishop Rhoades said, “I offer you my prayerful support as your new spiritual father and brother. And I look forward to getting to know you and to support you as my coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord.” He thanked the priests from Harrisburg, the religious order priests – the Congregation of Holy Cross and all the other religious communities who serve in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. In this Year for Priests, he encouraged all to show their love and support for priests.
He also thanked the men and women in consecrated life, seminarians and the lay faithful: “Thank you for your witness to the Lord Jesus and for your active participation as members of the body of the Church.
He thanked brothers and sisters of other Christian communities, the Jewish community and civic leaders. “I look forward to working together for the good of our community,” he noted, “especially on behalf of the poor and those in need.”
After thanking the Installation Committee and the choir, he also thanked his family and cousins: “Thank you for your beautiful love and support.”
Bishop Rhoades greeted media and well-wishers at the Grand Wayne Center where a reception, open to the public, was held following the installation. A light dinner was served as those gathered expressed their delight at the inspiring day.
Theresa Schortgen from St. John Parish in New Haven proclaimed that the “Mass was beautiful and historic. There was so much to learn about church history and the brotherhood of priests.”
She added, “We’ve been blessed for so many years with Bishop D’Arcy. I think with Bishop Rhoades it’ll be like a seamless garment. They both embrace the Catholic faith, are scholars and great teachers.”
Monica Sikorski and her family and friends traveled from South Bend for the solemn occasion, where they attend St. Matthew Cathedral. They all agreed it was worth the trip. Sikorski said, “The installation was extremely encouraging and inspiring. We have a successor (to Bishop D’Arcy) of his caliber who will watch over us.”
Nancy Henry from St. Charles Parish in Fort Wayne added, “It’s just what our diocese needs.”
Robin McCracken said joyfully that seeing her brother installed in Fort Wayne was both beautiful and humbling. “Seeing my brother up there … my tears were because I’ll miss him, but I can’t imagine anything better for him.”
Bill, McCracken’s husband agreed and said, “It’s happy and sad. He looks really excited.”
The McCracken family was able to join Bishop Rhoades in South Bend for a tour of the University of Notre Dame as well as the solemn vespers service on Tuesday evening, Jan. 12. True to her tradition of lighting a candle in every new church she visits since their mother’s death, McCracken lit a candle in St. Matthew Cathedral.
Molly McCracken, bishop’s niece said of her uncle’s installation and move to the Midwest, “I love him, but he has to follow what God wants. I think he’ll do a great job!”
James Gallogly, by far the person who traveled the furthest distance to witness this historic event, is the principal of St. Benedict Primary School in Handforth, England. After meeting then-Father Rhoades in 1987, the pair became “firm friends” spending holidays together, traveling and working side by side in ministry work over the years. Of the solemn event Gallogly said, “It was a moving and beautiful occasion. The liturgy was outstanding and the music was well chosen and poignant. It was an absolute delight.”
Gallogly continued, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for Bishop Rhoades in his personal journey and for the diocese. It’ll be the meeting of minds and hearts.”
Diane Freeby contributed to this article.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.