By Deacon Eric Meisfjord
SPOKANE, Wash. (CNS) — The Diocese of Spokane welcomed Bishop Blase J. Cupich as its sixth bishop with joyous celebrations of prayer in word and music Sept. 2 and 3.
The celebration began with evening vespers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes Sept. 2.
Before the beginning of the service, the K-town drummers of the Colville tribe in Keller greeted visitors with singing and percussion on the steps of the cathedral.
As the time came for vespers to begin, Bishop Cupich, accompanied by Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett of Seattle and Msgr. John Steiner of the Spokane Diocese, raised a mallet and pounded on the closed doors of the church.
As the doors opened, Bishop William S. Skylstad, retired bishop of Spokane, with Father Steve Dublinski, the cathedral’s rector, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States, invited Bishop Cupich into his cathedral, filled with friends, relatives, and representatives of diocesan, civic and denominational leaders.
In his homily, Bishop Cupich offered special thanks for the ministry of Bishop Skylstad. “No one could have asked more of you, but the record shows that whatever task you have been given, you responded with a generosity which both motivates and inspires,” he said. The congregation affirmed his words with long, sustained applause.
God’s word, said Bishop Cupich, “calls us to be attentive to the many ways God is gracing us in this time to bring healing to the past and to steady us to take up again the mission of Christ. You can count on me joining you in doing just that.”
The installation Mass the next morning at McCarthey Athletic Center, on the campus of Gonzaga University, drew more than 30 bishops from across the region and the nation, along with students from Catholic schools throughout the diocese and thousands of other parishioners and church leaders.
After the entrance procession, Archbishop Sambi read the papal mandate from Pope Benedict XVI, naming Bishop Cupich the sixth bishop of Spokane. The archbishop then said, “You are called by the Holy Spirit to serve almighty God and the people of the Diocese of Spokane in faith and love as their shepherd. Having already accepted the appointment of the Holy Father, are you willing to serve the people of the diocese in the tradition of the apostolic faith of the church?”
Bishop Cupich responded, “With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of God in the Diocese of Spokane. I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of this local church.”
And the people responded, “Thanks be to God!”
Archbishops Sambi and Brunett accompanied Bishop Cupich to the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, where he was seated. Archbishop Brunett presented Bishop Cupich with his crosier, or pastoral staff.
In his homily, Bishop Cupich cited the words of St. Gregory the Great, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 3.
“Gregory described the church as the dawn,” said Bishop Cupich, which “‘suggests that while the night is over, it does not yet proclaim the full light of day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them, the one mixed with the other, as it were.”
“What an encouraging metaphor for us as we take up the work of the church in our day,” said the bishop. “Yes, there are shadows of uncertainty around us, and I can tell you I have a whole lot of questions for which I have no answers. But, as the poet Hopkins puts it, this darkness belongs to ‘the last lights off the black west,’ and they are giving way as ‘the brown brink eastward springs.’ Christ the risen one, whom we call the Dayspring, stands with us, inviting us to trust him, inviting us to be his adult friends and partners in saving the world in our time, inviting us to believe that we were born for this day.”
Bishop Cupich was born in Omaha, Neb., and was ordained a priest of that archdiocese in 1975.
In his ministry as a priest, he has served as an associate pastor and pastor, teacher, seminary rector, and as a member of the staff of the apostolic nunciature in Washington.
He was ordained and installed as bishop of Rapid City, S.D., on Sept. 21, 1998. His appointment to the Spokane Diocese was announced June 30.
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