NEW BISHOP, NEW HOPE
At a time when the male leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States is taking something of a beating, some of which arguably might be deserved, it was wonderful to be present in Pensacola on Tuesday for the ordination and installation of their new bishop, Gregory L. Parkes, formerly a priest of the Orlando diocese as well as its Chancellor and Vicar General. At both Monday evening’s Evening Prayer Service and at the ordination/installation Mass itself, it was abundantly clear to me that God’s people still have great hope in their leadership and still welcome and receive their new bishops with fond expectations and great affection and affirmation. I am certain that Bishop Parkes must have retired for the night on Tuesday with a very good feeling at the end of the day. His new diocese opened their hearts to him in two ceremonies where the music and liturgy were both well planned and well executed. I’ve included a few photos of the ordination and installation that were graciously shared by the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahasse at the end of this blog post.
The custom in the United States is that archbishops ordain their “suffragans” (hundred dollar word for bishops of other dioceses within their province which in our case is the whole state of Florida) and the privilege fell to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami both in that role and having been Bishop Parkes own bishop for about nine years in Orlando – it was, as it should be, a sort of father-son moment. Both the Archbishop and Bishop Parkes thanked the former bishop of the diocese, John Huston Ricard, SSJ, for his almost thirteen years of service and the church literally erupted in a warm, long, standing ovation for Bishop Ricard. The same electricity of gratitude was in the air when Bishop Ricard exchanged the greeting of peace with his successor at the end of the ordination rite itself. No one worked harder for the nearly 75,000 people of the Panhandle Diocese than did Bishop Ricard and as I have said here several times in the last eighteen months, I miss him greatly as he was my closest friend and collaborator among the bishops. So old and new, standing together and embracing one another, is a memory I brought home with me, thanking the Church of my baptism for its constant opportunity to move on from what might become the routine and continue to renew itself and grow.
I have no doubt that two days away from the ordination, Bishop Parkes has said farewell to visiting family and friends and is already enundated with the decisions which necessarily had to await the installation of a new bishop – some of them certainly problems and challenges. That happened in my case seventeen years ago, but life and love, faith and friendship, patience and perseverance ultimately prevail and the new Bishop has a huge war chest of good will from which he can draw strength and inspiration and support. Archbishop Wenski liked to joke often about Bishop Parkes 6’8″ height but that is not the lasting memory for those like myself who were there on Tuesday. Rather, it will always be of a warm, kind and gracious man accepting the challenges which come today with being a bishop in the United States and promising his best to the local Church to which he is now wed.
Finally, assuming no sitting bishop gets moved, I leave you to guess who will be the next to be replaced and which diocese will next experience renewed hope. And as promised, the photos from the ordination and installation are included below.