Greetings in the grace and peace of Christ! I hope you are enjoying a good and refreshing beginning of the summer season.
I recently attended the spring assembly of the United States Bishops in St. Petersburg, Fla. On the way to Florida, I stopped home in Pennsylvania for the high school graduation of my nephew and godson Johnny. I am very proud of him, as is my sister and her husband. He graduated from Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Pa., and will be attending the college his uncle attended, Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. It was great to visit with family and friends while home for a day and a half.
The bishops’ spring assembly this year (and every three years) is more of a spiritual retreat than a business meeting. It was good to gather with my brother bishops in prayer and reflection.
The retreat centered on the theme of the relationship of bishops with their priests. Throughout the week, I thought about the priests of our diocese and of how blessed I am to have such a great presbyterate in our diocese. I have really enjoyed getting to know our priests and already feel very much a fraternal communion with them.
The assembly began on June 14 with a wonderful keynote address by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. Throughout the week, different bishops spoke on various topics connected to the overall theme, including “The Bishop as Father, Brother and Friend to his Priests,” “The Renewal of the Spiritual Lives of Bishops and Priests,” “Challenges for Bishops in Fostering Unity among Priests,” and “Communio Related to Bishops and Priests as Ministers of Word and Sacrament.” All the speakers were good, yet I was especially grateful for the presentation by Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto on the prayer life of bishops and priests. It was a very practical reflection on the necessity of prayer in our lives.
We were blessed to have as our spiritual director for the retreat assembly His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Cardinal Turkson, who is from the Ivory Coast in Africa, is a Scripture scholar. He preached the homilies during Morning and Evening Prayer each day, as well as at the Eucharistic Holy Hour and Penance Service.
So often when we bishops meet, we have a full and busy agenda with many important issues to deal with. It was nice to gather this time for prayer together. The only “business” I had to attend to was on the day prior to the assembly: meetings of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and of the Subcommittee on the Catechism, of which I am a member.
Happy belated Father’s Day!
Blessings to all the fathers reading this column! I hope you all had a happy and blessed Father’s Day on June 20. This was the first Father’s Day since my own Dad died. It is good on this day to remember all fathers, living and deceased, and to pray for them.
All of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, are children of the heavenly Father. On Father’s Day, as we give thanks for our earthly fathers, we also remember God our Father. We can reflect on the mystery of the fatherhood of God. “Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father” (CCC 240). As the Church teaches, the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father, which means “one only God with him.”
Though God’s fatherhood pertains first of all to the fundamental mystery of God’s inner life, to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, it also pertains to God’s relationship with us. Jesus has revealed to us the providence and merciful love of God, our almighty Father. Because of our union with Christ, we can dare to call God “our Father.” God has adopted us as His children in His only Son. This adoption is a great gift that calls us to continual conversion and new life. St. Cyprian said that “we must remember … and know that when we call God ‘our Father’ we ought to behave as sons and daughters of God.”
Speaking of fathers, it was a great joy to celebrate my first priestly ordination in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend this past Saturday. Deacon Andrew Budzinski was ordained a priest and is now “Father” Andrew Budzinski. By ordination, he became sacramentally conformed to Jesus Christ as Head and Shepherd of the Church. He is now enabled to act and serve in the name and person of Christ. He and all priests are called “Father” because they share in spiritual fatherhood, continuing the mission of Christ to reveal the Father in His absolute self-giving and life-giving love.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” — 1 Cor 4:15. The Apostle Paul is a wonderful model of spiritual fatherhood for our priests. His example teaches me and our priests how to give ourselves in generative love to the people entrusted to our pastoral care. What are the qualities of a good and holy priest? They are the same qualities of a good and holy father of a family: Reliability, courage, justice, temperance, selfless generosity and love.
We rejoice with Father Andrew and his family on his ordination to the priesthood. I have assigned Father Andrew to serve as parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne. Let us pray for this wonderful new priest of our diocese, that he will serve the Church with zeal, fidelity and charity. Congratulations, Father Andrew!
For your reflection, I close with part of the beautiful Prayer of Ordination that the bishop says when ordaining a priest:
Grant, we pray, Almighty Father, to this, Your servant, the dignity of the priesthood; renew deep within him the Spirit of holiness; may he henceforth possess this office which comes from You, O God, and is next in rank to the office of Bishop; and by the example of his manner of life, may he instill right conduct.
May he be a worthy coworker with our Order, so that by his preaching and through the grace of the Holy Spirit the words of the Gospel may bear fruit in human hearts and reach even to the ends of the earth.
Together with us, may he be a faithful steward of Your mysteries, so that Your people may be renewed in the waters of rebirth and nourished from Your altar; so that sinners may be reconciled and the sick raised up. May he be joined with us, Lord, in imploring Your mercy for the people entrusted to their care and for all the world.
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