GREAT WEEK-END TO BE A BISHOP
People often ask me what gives me the greatest joy in being a bishop and I respond unfailingly, ordaining priests, rite of election, and acknowledging the talents and gifts of many people serving the Church in the diocese humbly and joyfully. Well this week-end I was on overload starting with a Mass and luncheon for nineteen religious women and men whose combined service to the Church as professed religious amounted to 1000 years. We had three seventy-year professed/ordained jubilarians, all of whom are still quite active in their ministry. Organized annually by our Office of the Vicar for Religious, I look forward to Mass and lunch with these great women and men. There is to be found not one scintilla of regret or unhappiness in the life lived, but a joy which is contagious, infectious and life-giving. If you wish to know the names of those jubilarians honored this year, click here.
On Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ the King, for the last twelve years we have honored women and men from almost all of the parishes and missions of the diocese for their service to their Church. When instituted there was some resistance to the idea of singling out people annually. First, there was a fear that to honor one person would upset others but that quickly went away when all came to realize the true servants of the Gospel in our parishes and missions do not seek or wish for any recognition and are embarrassed if given it. So from the outset, parish communities were proud of those whom either their parish council or pastor chose for the honor. A second concern was that it might be difficult to sustain an annual honoree since the pool was “limited.” I did not believe that for the moment as there is an endless pool of generosity in our parishes and many people who could in time be selected to receive the honor. We named it after the patron saint of the diocese, St. Jude the Apostle.
The Cathedral of St. Jude was almost full to capacity yesterday afternoon as in addition to their pastors and spouses, the honorees often were accompanied by loving and admiring children and grandchildren. To a man and woman, they always approach me and say something like, “Bishop, I am embarrassed because I am not worthy of such an honor” and I know that is exactly the kind of person the award was designed to thank. They receive a beautiful medal bearing on one side the image of St. Jude the Apostle and on the other side the diocesan coat-of-arms with the inscription, “St. Jude the Apostle Award.” The list of those honored yesterday can be seen by clicking here.
Finally, today I celebrated Mass with and invited to lunch the retired priests of the diocese and others who served other local churches and religious communities but who are retired and living in the diocese. Our senior priest is Monsignor George Cummings who is well into his nineties and close behind is Father James Hoge, OSB of St. Leo Abbey. This too is an annual event in one of the three days that run up to Thanksgiving on Thursday. I had this idea the first year I was here, certain that some of these men had no where to go for Thanksgiving and we needed an annual opportunity to thank them and encourage them. Now that I am seventy and a half years old, you will probably find me putting into place a lot of things which will help guarantee that the local Church does not forget those who have served so well for so many years (there is a growing sense of self-interest I told my confessor).
We had sixty-one for Mass and lunch at the Bethany Center at midday today and any bishop who does not love the wisdom, wit and commitment of his retired priests is not living on planet earth. I love and respect these men so much. I know that one or more may not be here next year and that we are all preparing for the moment when we enter eternal life now more than perhaps when we were younger. I attach my homily this morning and you can read it, if you wish, by clicking here. By the way, the reference to my culinary nemesis “vegetables” is today’s first reading which is taken from the Book of Daniel, 1:8-20 in which Daniel and his brothers grew more healthy when sticking to a vegetarian diet. My how I am glad that such “penance” is not an article of faith!
Tags: Bethany Center, Cathedral of St. Jude, Catholic, Dianne Swain, Photo, Religious Jubilarians, Retired Priests, Reverend Craig Morley, Sister Emeline Schneider OSF, St. Anthony the Abbot Parish, St. Jude the Apostle Award