January 26, 2010 // Uncategorized

Episcopal ministry begins with gratitude and joy

It has been almost two weeks since my installation as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend and what a wonderful two weeks it has been!
The week of my installation was filled with activity as my family and friends arrived from Pennsylvania and other parts of the United States and even abroad. I am so grateful for the warm welcome and incredible hospitality extended to them by you, the faithful of my new diocese. So many of my friends and relatives have commented on the friendliness of the people of Indiana. I am so deeply grateful for your kindness to me and all my guests who came for the installation.

Speaking of my installation, it was truly a grace-filled event. Vespers at St. Matthew Cathedral on Jan. 12 and the Installation Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Jan. 13 were both very beautiful liturgies. I thank all who were involved in these ceremonies and all who helped with my installation in any way: with the liturgies, receptions, transportation and hospitality. I realize that dozens of people helped in the planning and organization of those days. To Bishop D’Arcy, Msgr. Schulte, Maureen Schott, the members of the installation committee, and all who assisted in various ways, from the bottom of my heart, I say “thank you.”

After I bade farewell to my family and friends, I was ready to begin my episcopal ministry in this beautiful portion of the Lord’s vineyard. It was truly a joy to celebrate my first Sunday Mass as bishop here in St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend on Jan. 17. That liturgy, the annual diocesan pro-life Mass, was truly a celebration of the Gospel of Life. It was the beginning of a week of events commemorating the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 1973.

I was deeply impressed to see the great turnout from our diocese at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., this past week. I concelebrated the Vigil Mass for Life on Jan. 21 in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. As I processed with dozens of other bishops during the opening procession, I was happy to see and greet some of our seminarians, as well as college and high school students from our diocese who were in the congregation.

The next day, Jan. 22, both Bishop D’Arcy and I concelebrated the Youth Mass at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington. There, among the 20,000 young people in attendance, it was a joy to see so many high school and college youth from our diocese. Later we marched together from the rally on the mall, down Constitution Avenue, past the U.S. Capitol, to the Supreme Court. It was a great joy for me to meet so many wonderful youth from our diocese — over 350 high school students from our four diocesan high schools and from several of our parishes as well as over 500 college students from the University of Notre Dame, Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College and the University of Saint Francis. I thank Fred and Lisa Everett, John Sikorski, Margarita Rodriguez, Cindy Black, Megan Oberhausen, Brian MacMichael, our high school pro-life moderators and faculty, our parish youth ministers and chaperones, all who helped organize and supervise our young people’s participation at the march.

We should have much hope for the future as we witness the pro-life commitment of our youth. Also, polls show that, for the first time in many years, a majority of Americans identify themselves as “pro-life.” We can only hope and pray that this will lead to a greater respect in our nation for the precious gift of human life, to an end to abortion, and to the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision that has so grievously harmed the moral fabric of our beloved nation. When we feel down about the prospects of ending abortion in our nation, it is important to turn to the Lord in prayer, trusting that, with God, nothing is impossible. Prayer is also our greatest weapon in the battle to defend life!

On Saturday, Jan. 23, the day after the March for Life, it was a special joy for me to celebrate holy Mass for the participants from our diocese at St. Ann Church in Arlington, Va. I was very happy that a large number of Notre Dame students joined us for this Mass prior to everyone’s return to Indiana. It was a beautiful climax to our days in our nation’s capital. I was also very happy that Bishop D’Arcy concelebrated the Mass with me, prior to his trip home to Boston for a well-deserved vacation with his family and friends.

I flew back to Indiana after the Saturday Mass. I flew to South Bend, rather than Fort Wayne, since I was scheduled for a Confirmation Mass on Sunday at Holy Cross Parish. This was my first Confirmation ceremony in the diocese. Celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation was one of my favorite episcopal duties in Harrisburg. It was wonderful to begin this holy ministry in my new diocese on Jan. 24. I confirmed 31 young people from the parishes of Holy Cross and St. Stanislaus in South Bend. The candidates were clearly well-prepared to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I thank the pastor, Father Michael Mathews, CSC; the parochial vicar, Father Bradley Metz, CSC; and all who helped prepare the newly confirmed. I pray that they, and all the young people Bishop D’Arcy and I will confirm this spring, will joyfully and courageously bear witness to Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit who strengthens them in Confirmation.

Finally, let us continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Thank you for your generosity in the special collection this past weekend to support the Church’s relief efforts in Haiti. The devastation from the earthquake on Jan. 12 has brought incredible suffering and loss of life to that impoverished nation. The Lord calls us to show love and compassion to our suffering neighbors. We do so through our prayers and our financial sacrifices. May God grant comfort to those who mourn the death of their loved ones, strength to those who are rebuilding and providing relief, and eternal peace to those who have died! May Christ our Hope be the refuge and strength for all our Haitian brothers and sisters!

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