Posts Tagged ‘Bishop’

FOUR DAYS AND TWO DECADES AGO

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Tuesday, January 26th marked my twentieth anniversary of episcopal ordination and brought to completion two decades of presence and, hopefully, service to this wonderful Church of St. Petersburg. For those who were here twenty years ago, it was quite a day. In attendance were six cardinals, fourteen archbishops, and sixty bishops from around the nation. St. Jude’s was filled to the rafters as I was and still am the first and only bishop to be ordained and installed in the diocese.

I have not been one for big celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, having allowed my 25th anniversary of priestly ordination to pass largely unnoticed and we had small celebration of my tenth anniversary of episcopal ordination with only the priests of the diocese present in 2006. Last Tuesday I repeated the tenth year experience by asking my brother priests to join me for a simple celebration of the Eucharist and a simple dinner in the Cathedral hall. No gifts and no speeches being the mandatory rubric. About 137 priests were able to be present on Tuesday which was a gift and brought joy to my heart. A few photos are included below, you can see more here.

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Celebration of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

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Starting from the far left of the photo: Msgr. Jude O’Dougherty; myself; Msgr. Daniel Hoye; Bishop Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne; Archbishop Emeritus John C. Favalora, the third Bishop of St. Petersburg and former Archbishop of Miami; and Bishop John Noonan, bishop of Orlando. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

 

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Talking to my brother priests. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I also wished for one final time to have an opportunity to begin to say good-bye. I believe that on May 27th of this year, my seventy-fifth birthday, that we need to begin to prepare both our hearts and this church for its new shepherd, whomever that might be. I have outlined the procedure for the selection and appointment of a new bishop in this space and if you did not read it before, you may do so by clicking here now. However, I thought you might wish to read my homily to the priests last Tuesday (it’s far from “Lincoln-est” as the title of this blog might tempt you to believe) but it is my heart as I wind up my work among all of you.

Until my successor is named, expect more blogs but perhaps a few less as I am growing old and tired in unison – the only part of my life that works in unison at this age! God Bless.

+RNL

YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

*NOTE added 6/1/16: This blog post is available in Spanish by clicking here.*

There are so many topics which I would like to share with you and it seems so seldom that I can find the time and the energy to sit, reflect, pray and then write. I cannot remember five months which have been as busy for me as the time since Christmas. I am still hoping to address topics like the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero a couple of weeks ago as well as the constitutional referendum in Ireland dealing with the definition of marriage. In both instances a clear and sound mind are called for before putting “pen to paper”, or whatever.

For the moment, however, and largely as a result of the article which appeared in the TAMPA TRIBUNE recently I would like to share with you an outline of the process which will be used in selecting a new bishop for this wonderful local church we call “The Diocese of St. Petersburg.”

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Photo courtesy of the Apostolic Nunciature.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. Photo courtesy of the Apostolic Nunciature.

On May 27, 2016, my seventy-fifth birthday, I will forward a letter to the Holy Father asking to retire as bishop of St. Petersburg after having reached the mandatory “age limit” for bishops. I can also submit it earlier than that if there is a good reason, such as my health, energy, and/or the needs of the diocese being greater than my ability to meet them. That letter is sent to the Holy Father’s representative in the United States, currently Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, our Apostolic Nuncio. He forwards the letter to the Congregation of Bishops in Rome who will then decide how it is to be handled: (a) it can be accepted immediately but I will be told to remain in office until my successor is installed; (b) it can be accepted immediately but an Apostolic Administrator (another bishop of another diocese) can be appointed to administer the diocese until a successor is chosen; (c) it can be accepted immediately but the College of Consultors of the Diocese (seven pastors) can be asked to choose an Administrator who would then serve with slightly restricted powers until a successor is installed.

Regardless, a long and thorough process of consultation will begin led by the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington. Currently most all the cardinals in the United States will be asked what they know about the diocese and its needs for a new bishop; similarly many of the U.S. archbishops though mostly of the region are queried; and special attention will be given to the Archbishop of Miami and to my brother bishops throughout the state (called a “province” in ecclesiastical language).

With the "major players" at the 2015 Catholic Days at the Capitol. Photo kindness of Steve Madden and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With the “major players” at the 2015 Catholic Days at the Capitol. Photo kindness of Steve Madden and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Letters are generally also sent to some members of the College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council leadership, some members chosen from the Diocesan Pastoral and Finance Councils and then others who may know about the diocese, for example the Rectors of our seminaries. All are given an opportunity to suggest names and if the experience is still about the same as it was when I was more intimately involved in the process, there will be about as many names submitted during this first phase as letters mailed.

In due time, the papal Nuncio “works” the feedback he has received and begins to focus on three possible candidates who seem to “fit the bill” meeting the needs of this diocese. Will I be asked, many people query me and my answer is “probably in the first round of inquiry but certainly not later in the process” and, quite frankly, my influence will be no more weighted than that of others canvassed. This system works well when it is left to the good process for vetting candidates and defining needs and the responsibility is taken very seriously by the Apostolic Nuncio.

Cardinal Oullet at the 2013 Rector's Dinner at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) in Rome. Photo courtesy of the PNAC Photo service.

Cardinal Marc Oullet at the 2013 Rector’s Dinner at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) in Rome. Photo courtesy of the PNAC Photo service.

When he has his three names, the papal nuncio will then send the files with everything he has received to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome and it leaves both his hands and the United States for further scrutiny and ultimately presentation to the Holy Father. The Congregation for Bishops consists mostly of cardinals residing in Rome but it was other members as well. They meet every other Thursday from the first Thursday in October to the last Thursday in June (not dissimilar to the United States Supreme Court). When the Congregation has all the files in order and translation into Italian of the input if called for, the matter is given to a cardinal member of the Congregation who is called the “ponens” which is Latin for “postulator” who presents the names received to the full Congregation. The papal nuncio to the United States will have sent the files with a recommendation for first, second, and third choice among the names. The cardinal “ponens” can do the same and recommend his order of candidates, often guided by discussion from the Congregation’s staff and prefect (“chairman” in our language), currently Cardinal Marc Ouellet. After whatever discussion the members of the Congregation wish to give to the selection a vote is taken, and generally the candidate receiving the most votes is the name which is taken to the Holy Father.

The congregation also has an opportunity to signal its pleasure or displeasure with candidates number two and three but that is a process I choose not to go into here.

Finally, usually the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops sees the Holy Father sometime on the Saturday following the previous Thursday meeting of the congregation with the file(s) and the advice of the Nuncio and the Congregation. If the diocese is relatively small and seemingly inconsequential (sorry but we would fit in that category), the Pope as any CEO of very large multi-national organization, would accept the proposed name presented to him. If the vacancy is for a place like Chicago or Washington or New York, then the Holy Father might ask for more time to consult, read and reflect, pray and propose.

By Monday, usually, of the following week the Congregation has contacted the Apostolic Nuncio and asked him to gain the acceptance of the person chosen and a public announcement follows usually no less than a week after that.

Now let me close this with some FAQ’s ( “frequently asked questions”)

  1. Will I, Bishop Lynch, know who is being proposed or likely to succeed? No.
  2. Would I like to know? No.
  3. Will anyone in St. Petersburg know who is in the running? No.
  4. Will there be public updates once the process begins? No.
  5. Will anyone in the media or on the blog-o-sphere know for sure who it is going to be? No
  6. Will it “leak” in Rome after the Congregation and before the Pope decides? No
  7. Will it “leak” in Rome or Washington prior to the formal announcement? No
  8. Will it “leak” in the diocese prior public announcement? I hope not.
  9. Will there be rumors? Highly likely. Should they be taken as “Gospel”? No

Though it is becoming increasingly more difficult for me as I age, I will maintain the same Confirmation schedule for 2015/16 as this past year (approximately thirty-five), I will preside and preach at ten penance services throughout the five counties during Lent 2016 (there will be no “The Light is On for You” in Lent 2016) which will be part of our diocesan observance of Pope Francis’ call for a “Holy Year of Mercy”, and then there will be the usual requests for 25th and 50th anniversaries of priests and parishes plus participating in as many moments throughout the diocese that my health will allow. We will have already scheduled several special events during 2015-2016 including a special convocation of all our priests on assignment in the diocese, an observance of the 50th anniversary of the documents of the Second Vatican Council on Religious Life (“Perfectae Caritatis”) and Catholic-Jewish relations (“Nostrae Aetate”). Then there are always the funerals, etc.

I hope to serve through to my birthday next May and as long thereafter as it takes to find a successor, but I pray that the diocese can receive new life and new energy as soon as possible. I am already praying for my successor and will ask you to do the same as the time approaches.

+RNL

TWO THAT ARE WELL WORTH YOUR READ

Friday, January 30th, 2015

I have finished my first attempt at a new blog entry but I need at least another day to allow it to settle to be totally comfortable with it. In the meantime, I commend to your reading two excellent pieces.

First, the long interview with the new Archbishop of Chicago, Blasé Cupich, which appears in the current issue of Commonweal magazine.

The second is in my opinion the best homily I have ever heard delivered yesterday by its new bishop, +Christopher Coyne at his installation as Bishop of Burlington, Vermont. As a former English teacher and as an aging bishop, he hits a veritable home run – literally and ecclesiologically. Thanks are due to the mother of all ecclesial blogs, Whispers in the Loggia for making the latter available so quickly.

Two new bishops beginning their tenure as shepherds firmly rooted in the reality of today’s church and speaking from the lived experience of today’s Church. It is exciting.

+RNL

NEW BISHOP, NEW HOPE

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes. Photo kindness of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahasse.

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.

+RNL

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

 

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

 

At the ordination and installation of Bishop Gregory L. Parkes to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Photo kindness of Peggy Dekeyser with the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

I AM SIXTEEN GOING ON SEVENTEEN

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Yesterday marked my sixteenth anniversary of ordination as a bishop and the same for my service to this wonderful local church. I try to ignore these occasions and usually only a few friends with really good memories interrupt my private reverie. However, there is a little book published each year called an ORDO which while it mainly serves as a reminder of which Mass and Prayers of the Divine Office one should pray each day, also includes information like the anniversaries of the deaths of all priests in the province of Miami and other useless facts like which bishop was ordained and/or installed on which day. Were that information not there, then the day would pass a little more quietly.

There is also the challenge of a loving staff which though they know I wish such occasions to pass generally unnoticed still find some way of spreading the news. Yesterday the whole student body and most of the teachers of the adjacent St. Petersburg Catholic came secretly (500 strong, but traveling secretly into my office area), set up a sound system and had the Glee Club then sing my favorite song from the TV show GLEE entitled “Don’t Stop Believing.” In true GLEE style I could not restrain doing a typical “dance” which at my age and stamina lasted all of twenty-seconds. But to be truthful, I loved it.

There was a confirmation last night at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Seffner and prior to its start I had a chance to visit with its pastor emeritus, Father Chris Fitzgerald, a prince of a priest. The years are not all that kind to Father Fitz these days but we exchanged some thoughts of the challenges of getting older and quite simply told each other how much we loved one another. That affirmation from him, one of my heroes, was enough to make the day memorable and special. To all those who remembered and sent e-mails of good wishes thanks. To all those who were unaware or unable to acknowledge the day, even more heartfelt thanks.

Going to bed last night, tired but also exhilarated somewhat, preceded by Night Prayer in the chapel, gave me some moments to thank my God that if one had to be called to the ministry of bishop, this lovely church was and remains pure gift. There are other signs also that I have been blessed thus far with a “good ride” and for that my heartfelt thanks to my priests, deacons, religious women and men and the greatest accumulation of faithful and faith-filled laity one could ask for. In the words of that lovely lyric from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s THE SOUND OF MUSIC, I am “sixteen, going on seventeen” and still in love with my Lord and those whom He has sent to “dance” with me. God Bless You All.

+RNL

GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, GA

I am writing this from Savannah, Georgia where today, a Franciscan Friar, Gregory H. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., with a long and successful pastoral experience in this state is being ordained bishop of this historically important diocese. I have had the wonderful gift of coming to know Savannah’s two prior bishops, Raymond Lessard who resides, teaches and is a spiritual director at our seminary in Boynton Beach and who is respected and deeply admired by the seminarians and Kevin Boland who retires today with the ordination and installation of his successor. Bishop Boland and I have shared many USCCB Committee and CRS assignments and he has been a good friend and awesome advisor. Bishop Boland was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Savannah fifty years ago and it is unusual for a local “boy to make good” and become a bishop in the diocese in which he is serving and for which he was ordained. Additionally, Bishop Boland’s older brother, Raymond, is the retired bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Both come from the stunningly beautiful Irish seaside village of Kinsale. Both have been wonderful shepherds of God’s people entrusted to their care. Savannah is in some ways the “mother diocese” for all of Florida as St. Augustine was cut off from it. Charleston is the oldest diocese in the south, followed by Savannah and then St. Augustine although the faith first came to St. Augustine by way of the explorers.

During the ordination ceremony I found myself reflecting on the new bishop and the Church in which Christ is calling him to minister in a new way. We are a Church with historic challenges. We are steadily losing membership, not in droves as is oft reported in the media, but enough to be very worrisome to those of us who love the Church very much. Our numbers of members are up only because of the steady and continued influx of Hispanics but we lose a great number of them too after they feel so poorly received and welcomed. And while we can be, as I wrote several days ago, still a joyous Church, there is an aura of worry hanging over the Church. Some of the losses are due to the strongly secular influences of the times in which we live, the strongest ever in the two plus centuries of our presence on these shores. We are not alone in experiencing losses as other mainstream and now even evangelical and mega churches are beginning to share the experience, again due to secularism and the “who needs God” or “if I still believe I need God, who needs a Church” attitude. But I also think as Catholics we are taking a double hit at the moment. We have a growing problem of credibility and trust. As the congregation this afternoon invoked the memory and action of the saints on the new bishop while he lay stretched out on the floor of the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (once destroyed by fire and magnificently restored), I could not help but think, “does he know what he is getting into and is in for?” I am sure he does and he certainly does after listening to Bishop Wilton Gregory’s eloquent and on-the-mark homily.

Let no one tell you otherwise but the sexual abuse of minors by priests and other Church persons and how it was handled in the past by men of my order is taking a toll, on the papacy, on the episcopacy, on the priesthood, on religious life and on Church membership. And even though we have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect children in the present and future, the past still stalks us. There are issues which we hold sacred (the right to life being primary) which are very divisive in a secular world. We are a hierarchical structure which grates on many, and we sometimes send very mixed signals to our faithful as a hierarchy. In my years as priest and bishop, I would say that the Church in the US runs the risk of  becoming more congregational than collegial, more strident at times than loving and forgiving, and sadly, more willing to pick fights with friends which further divides and seldom conquers.

Bishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv. and myself prior to his ordination today

When I joined the other twenty some bishops in imposing hands, I approached the moment asking the Lord to grant to His new bishop servant leader the heart of Christ, the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. I will not live long enough I suspect to see the Church which today’s young bishops will build and guide. I wish them well. I fear not for the Church in the long run because Christ promised our predecessors that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I truly believe that and feel it has been born out repeatedly over two thousand years. I just wish to see unity restored, trust rebuilt, the vision of Vatican II fulfilled, the people coming back to the true faith in greater numbers than they may be leaving. Heavy thoughts for a very happy day here in the Garden of Good and Evil which is Savannah, Georgia on a day in which a new chapter in their long and illustrious history begins with their fourteenth bishop. Bishop Hartmayer chose as his episcopal motto on his coat of arms three simple Latin words: PAX ET BONUM (Peace and good). It was a theme clerkly woven throughout the ordination rite as a former high school student of his who is a composer wrote a hymn for the occasion using only those three words to the musical setting. They were the bishop’s last words at the end of his brief remarks at the end of Mass. They are precisely what I prayed for today: peace and good.

The Cathedral as seen from one of the city's magnificent "gardens", this one of good and adjacent to the Cathedral

+RNL