January 13, 2010
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend
In this moment of great joy for our Diocese, I am pleased to welcome you to this historic Cathedral. Built by the holy French missionary priest, Msgr. Julian Benoit, who was a contemporary of the intrepid Father Edward Sorin, founder of the great University of Notre Dame and of many South Bend parishes, this Cathedral was built in 1860 – six years after the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception and was dedicated to her under that title of the Immaculate Conception – and she has guided the Diocese from its beginning.
In these two days, our Diocese has been given the privilege of living a moment of faith and receiving great teaching about the nature of the Church and the Episcopal Office.
The presence of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio, brings close to our Diocese Pope Benedict XVI, the Successor of Peter. As Pope John Paul II told the American bishops in California at one of the old Spanish missions in 1987 – the Pope does not come from outside the local Church, but from within that Church. We also receive a catechism lesson on the nature of the Episcopal Office. The Bishop says Saint Augustine is not the name of an honor, but of a work or a service. We are still under the light of the great reforming Council, which says this about the bishop. “Sent as he is by the Father to govern His family, a bishop should keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be waited upon, but to serve and to lay down his life for his sheep. This same Council lays out for us our response, the response of the Church to a new bishop,” as to the faithful – they should be closely attached to the bishop, as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, so that all things may conspire towards harmonious unity and bring forth abundant fruit under the glory of God. Bishop Rhoades, I assure you with all my heart that this will be the response of this local Church to you – beginning with me, your predecessor – we will be closely attached to you as the Church is to Christ, and Christ is to the Father. We read of the Apostles in the fifth chapter of Luke that “They brought their boats to shore; and left everything and followed Him.” You come in that same spirit. How blessed that this immediate “yes” to Christ is still alive in this Church.
This moment gives us assurance that the Eucharist will be celebrated. Priests will be ordained. Sins forgiven. And the poor will have the Gospel preached to them. Thanks be to God.
I also give thanks to God that I have been allowed, indeed called by Christ, to serve these holy people for almost a quarter of a century. A call and a ministry for which I never felt worthy, but which I loved and carried out with all my heart.
Pope John Paul II, in an essay late in life, after thanking the Lord and Our Lady, also thanked his guardian angel. I, too, thank that worthy angel who accompanied me back and forth between our two major cities, sometimes late at night; and kept me from having an accident, sometimes just barely.
However, that worthy angel chose not to protect me from an occasional speeding ticket.
Let us give thanks to God for this great moment and live it with joy and faith.
I pledge for whatever God gives to me now to dedicate myself in prayer and service to this beloved diocese — and to do it with all my heart.
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