Posts Tagged ‘Bishop John Noonan’


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.


Celebration of the Eucharist. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.



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.



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.



Friday, December 9th, 2011

The Florida bishops (minus Pensacola-Talllahassee which is still waiting for a new bishop to be announced and installed) met in Miami on Tuesday as guests of Archbishop Thomas Wenski. It took us four hours to dispose of the business of the Florida Catholic Conference. Conference Executive Director Dr. D. Michael McCarron presented us with a lengthy agenda of action items about which there were no real differences of opinion but a need to know more about the challenges which face the Church in Florida in 2012. This state is so lucky to have a superb Executive Director who is assisted by a very able, competent and committed staff. The results of the Conference over the years in the public square far exceeds the per cent of the state population which is Roman Catholic and stands as a testament to prudent, respectful and appreciative engagement with past Administrations (Chiles, Bush, Crist, and Scott in my time) and legislatures.

From left, bishops who attended the Mass included: Bishop Victor Galeone, retired of St. Augustine: Bishop Fernando Isern of Pueblo, Colo.; Bishop John Noonan of Orlando; Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine; Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice; myself; and Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

In the evening we reconvened at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami to celebrate retired Archbishop John C. Favalora’s golden anniversary of priestly ordination and silver anniversary of episcopal ordination. I hope and pray that you remember kindly the five years that Archbishop Favalora served as our third bishop here in St. Petersburg. About one hundred and forty priests, nine bishops, and a good representation of the laity came for this special Mass of Thanksgiving.The Archbishop was both the principal celebrant of the liturgy and the homilist. I must say that St. Mary’s Cathedral has a music program to “die for” and as good as I remember it, it has never been better than this evening. The celebration took about seventy-five minutes which is not bad when one gathers that many bishops and others.

Archbishop John C. Favalora sits in the cathedra, a symbol of a bishop's authority, during the Mass. Photo courtesy of Ana Rodriguez-Soto with The Florida Catholic.

Archbishop Favalora gave a beautiful homily on the occasion, focusing not on himself but on the Lord’s call to serve in the priesthood. In twelve minutes (I time myself and everyone else who preaches because I firmly believe that the mind can not absorb what the tush can’t take) he gave a ratio fundamentalis or foundation reasons for what the gift of priestly ministry means in our own time. Only at the end did he quickly express his thanks to those gathered for nourishing his ministry in the past twenty-five and fifty years. At the conclusion, he was greeted with prolonged applause and standing appreciation, I believe not just for his lucid homily but for his many years of service. The Diocese of St. Petersburg is about forty-four years old now and its first bishop, Charles McLaughlin served for the first ten years, then Bishop W. Thomas Larkin succeeded him for just shy of ten years. Archbishop Favalora’s tenure was about five years and my own is soon to enter its sixteenth year. I think each of us has attempted in our own way to nourish and fashion a community of faith at the service of Christ’s Church. I have always been grateful that the Lord in his kindness allowed me to follow Archbishop Favalora because things were in great shape when I came. I only hope I can with God’s help leave them that way for my successor. In words spoken and written yesterday I extended to the good Archbishop the gratitude of the Church of St. Petersburg for his presence in our midst. He seems incredibly happy to be free of the burden of administration and I am admittedly jealous.



Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Many things on my mind today and the week just ended has been one of the most physically taxing in a long time since the normal Advent and pre-Christmas schedule was interrupted by a trip to Baltimore for a meeting at Catholic Relief Services. So, here goes,

Bishop John Noonan was installed as fifth bishop of Orlando on Thursday at the Shrine Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe. A congregation in excess of 2,500 warmly welcomed their new shepherd and in his homily, the new shepherd demonstrated the warmth of his love and fondness for his new diocese. The ceremony was quite lovely and lasted less than 105 minutes which is a miracle in itself. Bishop Noonan did a wonderful thing at the end of Mass when in speaking of Advent as the season of hope, he invited all the seminarians present to come forward as witnesses to hope which the faithful should have for their Church. The bishop has spent almost seventeen of his twenty-seven years in the priesthood working in seminary formation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, as Dean of Men and then for a good number of years as President-Rector. About eighty seminarians came forth to a standing and prolonged ovation from the people at the Shrine and proudly I could identify about twenty-five as being from our diocese.

Last night saw the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families (about 190 persons), their pastors and priest friends, and myself. Following Mass in the St. James Chapel we proceeded to Archbishop Favalora Hall where we had dinner and bade farewell with great gratitude to Father Leonard Plazewski who has held the position of Vocation Director of this diocese for twelve and a half years. An earlier post here indicated the transition and who his replacements would be in that very important position within the diocese. The seminarians are fond of Father Len and so the leave-taking was not that easy for him or for many but the Church of St. Petersburg owes him a debt of thanks for his hard work over the years recruiting and assisting seminarians through to priesthood. It is always wonderful to see our men and their families in a relaxed atmosphere and to begin to acknowledge the coming of Christmas with their return to their homes.

Fr. Len Plazewski

Father Len Plazewski saying his good-by and thanks to those present for the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families. (Photo courtesy of A. Padilla, seminarian)

The Bethany Center is fast becoming my second home as I seem to be spending many nights there lately. Prior to last night, I held the third of my overnights with our priests, this time being the international priests (born and formed in other countries like Poland, India, African nations, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and Central and South America). Our lengthy conversations about their experiences in coming to minister in the United States and in this diocese were both illuminating and helpful to me. They are a great and generous group of men who understand the challenges of language, culture, accent, etc. and who wish nothing more than to be accepted by me, by you, and by their brother priests as no longer a category (e.g. “international priests”) but just as priests of the diocese.

I have had only one angry over-the-top “comment” to a blog entry here which focused on the lack of a “corpus” (figure of Christ) on the large crucifix at Holy Family Catholic Church and made much of the stained glass window of the “Risen Christ” in the rear of the sanctuary. I regret ruining this readers day then and now as I failed to mention that the wood-carved body of Christ did not arrive on time to be installed on the cross and is due in a few weeks and as for the “stained-glass window”, it was in the church since its first dedication and was a sine qua non for the older parishioners in the renovation. When the figure of Jesus arrives and is placed, I will put a picture here in the profound hope that the reader will calm down but I would bet not. He was from Michigan, anyway, not the parish or the diocese.

This evening a number of the staff of our Pastoral Center gathered at Pinellas Hope to prepare, serve and feed the 262 residents on this cold Florida night. Working without a raise for the last two years, this group paid for the food, prepared it, and served it. I lent them my presence and not my culinary expertise of which I have none.

Pastoral Center staff serving one line at Pinellas Hope on December 19, 2010

Father Bob Morris and his mom also helped out

When the new year begins, forty bishops from the East Coast (the Wilmington diocese down to Miami) will gather for their annual retreat from the 3-7 of January at the Bethany Center. Several Cardinals, four archbishops and the rest bishops will spend their first visit to Bethany being led in our prayer and reflection by Bishop Jaime Soto who is the bishop of Sacramento, California. They are all looking forward to coming back to the Diocese of St. Petersburg after having spent a week here this past summer, hoping for warm weather (a coin toss in early January as we locals know), and ready to enjoy our hospitality and the beauty and comfort of Bethany. So I still have some blogs left in me right up to and including the Feast of the Holy Family a week from today but after that – SILENCE until the 7th of January.

That just about empties the file I have in my mind. Enjoy this final week of hope and expectation.



Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Cathedral of St. James, Orlando

Today I attended the rededication of the Cathedral of St. James in our neighboring diocese of Orlando. As my regular readers know, both the dioceses of St. Petersburg and Orlando were created on the same date in 1968. When a new diocese is erected, usually one Church is chosen to be the Cathedral Church for the new diocese and is announced on the same date, with said designation coming from the Holy See after consultation with the local churches. In Orlando, the original Cathedral was St. Charles Borromeo and the first bishop of Orlando, the late Archbishop William Donald Borders was installed as its first bishop there. However, St. Charles experienced a catastrophic fire and it fell to the second bishop, +Thomas Grady to select another Church for the “mother church” of the growing diocese and he chose the downtown parish of St. James, much smaller in size, seating about 500-600 people. Normally a church chosen to be a Cathedral Church remains that way for ever but except for the great basilicas of Europe, in the United States almost every Cathedral Church will go through some remodel and/or refinish every fifty years or so. The Cathedral of St. Augustine was restored and remodeled once in my lifetime, Miami’s Cathedral has been significantly altered twice in the last thirty years. Palm Beach whose Cathedral of St. Ignatius is the youngest at thirty-six years has been totally redone from its original plan.

Several years ago, Orlando’s fourth bishop, Thomas Wenski, embarked on a project to renovate and remodel St. James, adding seating space, improving sight lines, and truly creating a “cathedral” which takes its name from the presence of a permanent chair or in Latin Cathedra from which the bishops presides and celebrates the major functions of the diocese: ordinations, Chrism Masses, Holy Week and Christmas midnight, etc. The newly redone St. James now seats about 1000 people, artfully done by taking a challenging footprint and expanding out on one side with an enlarged transept and on the other with a daily Mass chapel which will also seat a large number of people who can participate in the Mass through glass.

Sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. James, Orlando

The sanctuary is larger and more functional for diocesan ceremonies and all inside the Cathedral feel a sense of closeness to a permanent, granite main altar. Since Catholic liturgy has three parts as we have featured in our own diocese during the last three years, the new St. James has a very impressive granite ambo from which the Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed. Behind the main altar and the granite cathedra are panels of art work depicting major moments in the life of Christ and there is a half-dome presenting the Blessed Mother. I am including some pictures to give you an idea of the finished product.

At moments like today, the Cathedral or any church which has been built from scratch or substantially remodeled is full of priest architects who can be heard saying to their neighboring priests either “I wonder why he did that?” or “I would have done it this way!” Bishops give in to the same temptation as well but over-all, given the space and footprint with which they worked here in Orlando, I think they have done a very fine job of transforming basically a downtown parish Church into a Cathedral.

Baptismal Font in the Cathedral of St. James, Orlando

I have more than a passing interest in today’s rededication because our own Cathedral of St. Jude needs attention badly. Earlier this year, for the first time in over fifty years, we replaced the mechanical system (air conditioning and heating) at the tune of $550,000. Our Cathedral needs another 3 million dollars worth of work just to keep its doors open (pointing, roofing, new doors and window sealing up the leaks of both, new pews to replace the rotting original pews in the Church, etc.) My consultative bodies along with the parishioners or St. Jude’s have been working on a redesign of a Church which was never designed in the first place to be a Cathedral church but was chosen simply because of its size and newness in 1968. So today was a busman’s holiday for me, sitting back and not doing too much praying but rather watching and thinking.

Archbishop  Wenski who was installed as Archbishop of Miami in June returns to his old diocese today but his successor has already been named as you know from reading this blog and will be officially installed as the fifth bishop of Orlando on December 16th. And to him went the honor last night, presiding at Evening Prayer in the Cathedral of St. James the Apostle, Bishop John Noonan was the first to occupy the bishop’s chair, cathedra.

Tomorrow, Christ the King and the St. Jude the Apostle awards at our own Cathedral.



Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
The Most Rev. John Noonan, Bishop-designate of Orlando

The Most Rev. John Noonan - Bishop-designate of Orlando

On the day I was ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of Miami, the final step in my journey to priesthood, as we were preparing to leave St. James Catholic Church in North Miami to drive to St. Clement’s Church in Fort Lauderdale where I would be the first ordination of Miami’s new archbishop, Edward A. McCarthy. one of the senior priests whom I had been living with, Father George Razzutis, was rushed to the local hospital with what appeared to be (and was indeed) a heart attack. From the stretcher on the way from the house to the ambulance, this grand old priest said to me, “It is OK, God today gives us a new priest and takes an old one.” Father Razzutis lived for three more days in the hospital and each day when I would visit him would take my hand and say almost exactly the same phrase. It is a characteristic of our God, He sometimes takes away but then if we wait long enough, we can see His provident hand at work once again as He gives us something unexpected to raise and buoy our spirits. Yesterday was one of those days with the death of our dear Monsignor Scully but I did not have to wait long to witness God’s loving care for his Church at work again.

This morning at noon in Rome (6:00am EDT), it was announced that my brother Miami priest and bishop, John Noonan, was chosen by the Holy Father to become the fifth bishop of Orlando, our neighbor the east, starting in the border counties of Polk, Sumner and Marion. Bishop Noonan was a classmate in the seminary of our Father Michael Muhr and escaped myself as his Rector by several months as he was already in the theology seminary in Boynton Beach in 1979 when I was made Rector of St. John Vianney Seminary. Born in Ireland but with most of his education, certainly in the seminary, in the United States, once ordained he became a priceless, hard-working parish priest. He would later return to St. John Vianney College Seminary as Vice-Rector and Dean of Men as well as Rector. A number of our younger clergy ordained the last twelve years remember him fondly in this capacity. Astute, holy, hard-working, Bishop John Noonan would earn the respect and, I would say, fondness of the priests of Miami during the recent years when he has served as Auxiliary Bishop and touchstone with the priests often in their relationship with their archbishop.

A segment of our diocesan family will remember that last October he came to St. Jude’s Cathedral and ordained nineteen of our permanent deacons, in so doing winning the hearts of all those in the Cathedral that day. Orlando does not yet appreciate how lucky they are in this appointment but it will not take them long. I thank the Lord this morning that a good and dear friend has been chosen to lead the Church adjacent to my own, begun on the same day as my own, now slightly larger than my own. There is a world of difference between being an auxiliary bishop in the Church and an ordinary or bishop-in-charge. Together let us pray between now and his installation on December 16, 2010 for our sister Church in Orlando and for Bishop Noonan. Orlando I hope appreciates that they did not have to wait long when the Lord took their previous bishop and then gave them their new bishop. Vere dignum et justum est (it is truly right and just.)



Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
Then-Bishop Wenski and then-Archbishop Favalora at Wenski's 10th Anniversary of Ordination as a Bishop.

Then-Bishop Wenski and then-Archbishop Favalora at Wenski's 10th Anniversary of Ordination as a Bishop. (Florida Catholic)

The Holy See announced at noon Rome time today (600am EDT) that Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the request of Archbishop John Clement Favalora to retire as the third Archbishop of Miami and has appointed as Miami’s fourth archbishop, Bishop Thomas Wenski, formerly a priest of Miami but now serving as bishop of Orlando. This announcement is of special interest to our diocese as many of you will remember that Archbishop Favalora served as third bishop of St. Petersburg and as my immediate predecessor. I was the first priest ordained to the episcopacy by the Archbishop on January 26, 1996 and therefore I am in a way his “oldest son.” In his fifteen and a half years as Archbishop of Miami, he has ordained as bishops Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Bishop Wenski of Orlando, Bishop Gilberto Fernandez, Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez, and Bishop John Noonan as assistant bishops in Miami and has installed Bishop John H. Ricard as Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Bishop J. Keith Symons as Bishop of Palm Beach, Bishop Norbert Dorsey as third bishop of Orlando, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Palm Beach, Bishop Gerald Barbarito of Palm Beach, Bishop Wenski of Orlando and Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice. So one can easily see his presence as metropolitan archbishop of Miami just in episcopal ordinations and installations and is in addition to daily managing a large archdiocese.

So what does this change imply for our local Church and for myself? The Church asks archbishops to “mentor” the other bishops of his province, to monitor if necessary important things occurring in the other dioceses, and to call the bishops of the province together from time to time to discuss candidates for the episcopal office. In our case, the Archbishop of Miami is automatically the President of the Florida Catholic Conference so he convenes us as bishops four times a year to conduct the affairs of the FCC, and he is Chancellor of our theologate in Boynton Beach where most of our future priests and bishops are trained, and there we meet twice a year. For myself personally this is a bittersweet moment. I am happy for Archbishop Favalora that after many years of active ministry, as priest and bishop, he will soon be freed of the burden of administration and can begin to relax. As our “leader” he had a wonderful ability to help us relax when we were together and to enjoy the company of one another as bishops. He did not like or lead long meetings and he was available when we needed someone to talk to about anything. I will miss those wonderful gifts very much as I suspect will also my brother bishops. The last few years in Miami have been particularly stressful for not only the archbishop but for many others there so I wish him a stress-less and peaceful retirement.

Bishop Wenski knows what he is inheriting. He is a gifted linguist speaking fluent Creole, Spanish, and Polish in addition to his native tongue. It will be the first time when at a minimum a tri-cultural and tri-lingual urban archdiocese will have someone to easily communicate with the people in their native tongues. As I told him in a phone call, now I know who is likely to bury me and I assured him of my prayers and support in his daunting new ministry.

When the Diocese of St. Petersburg was created in 1968, Bishop Charles McLaughlin was appointed our first bishop. On the same day, the Diocese of Orlando was created and  William Donald Borders was named first bishop of Orlando. Amazingly he died yesterday at the age of  96, one day prior to his successor three times removed  being named to Miami. He himself retired as Arcbishop of Baltimore many years ago. Also yesterday (Monday) the mother of Bishop Barbarito of Palm Beach went home to the Lord after a long life and lots of love from her priest/bishop son. May we remember both of these people in our prayers.