Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Paul D. Etienne’


Monday, October 10th, 2016

It has been quite a week for this bishop. First, I spent three days with a majority of our priests in our annual convocation which was held at our Bethany Center. We had three superb presenters, we prayed well, and we recreated well. In all likelihood, this will be my final convocation with these priests for some time. As regular readers know, I intend to absent myself from the diocese for one year beginning on the evening of my successor’s installation. After that, late Spring, Summer, and most of October will be spent in Northern Michigan and traditionally the convocation is held the first week of October – a week or two before God’s manifestation of change and beauty, aka. “Fall foliage.” So there was some hidden, I hope, emotion surrounding my presence at convocation this week.

Yesterday (Saturday), we celebrated Hispanic heritage day with a joyous celebration at the Cathedral honoring this year Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil.


Processing in with Our Lady of Aparecida. Photo kindness of Oscar Calabi.

The Hispanic and Portuguese communities filled that worship space and prayed and sang their hearts out. You can watch the live streamed video of the Mass here. More photos will be posted on the diocesan website soon.

Bishop Etienne (photo courtesy BIshop Etienne's blog)

Bishop Paul Etienne (photo courtesy Bishop Etienne’s blog)

However, the larger Church I serve and love has been quite active in my life and not in the manner most of you who regularly read this would expect. First came the announcement last Tuesday that Pope Francis will transfer my dear friend, Paul D. Etienne, from serving as bishop of Cheyenne (all of Wyoming and all of Yellowstone National Park which lies within the state of Montana) to serve the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska as its fourth Archbishop. Archbishop-elect Etienne, 57, once worked with me, as a lay man at the time, on the 1987 visit of Saint John Paul II’s second visit to the United States. During that time we became very close, as collaborators and friends. I came to know his parents well, his hometown of Tell City, Indiana well (that didn’t take too long), his siblings Rick and Angela who are married, Nicolette who is a member of the Benedictine Community at Beech Grove, Indiana, Bernie and Zack who are priests of the Evansville diocese. The new archbishop extended to me the privilege of preaching at both his first Mass as a priest and at his episcopal ordination/installation seven years ago. He has been the spiritual moderator for one of our convocations for priests and they fell in love with him. I suspect that there might have been some local disappointment here, among the clergy, when Pope Francis announced “Anchorage”.

He has been a marvelous shepherd in a huge diocese and from all I have heard, there is ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth” there at the moment. For a lover of the outdoors, an avid hunter and fisherman, the new archbishop gets to change his prey to bears and moose and caribou and from trout and bass to salmon. Previously, driving for hours to be present in the Wyoming peripheries, he now will have to use float planes in a few instances and Alaska Airlines in others to reach his people. But, and this is important, this balanced and deeply spiritual  priest/bishop as an archbishop will have a role to play in further shaping the Francis vision of Church which the new archbishop enthusiastically supports.


Bishop Kevin J. Farrell. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Callas.

This morning (Sunday) Pope Francis named three of my brother bishops to the College of Cardinals: Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, previously Bishop of Dallas, Texas, who the Holy Father asked to come to Rome to administer the new super congregation for life, laity and the pursuit of

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

happiness; Archbishop Blasé J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago who has been in this diocese on numerous occasions, like Archbishop Etienne as spiritual moderator at one of our priest convocations and delivering talks on the new missal, new translation, and new vision for the Church. He also has on occasion found our locale useful for rest, reflection and writing;

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR at the Cathedral last year. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR at the Cathedral last year. Photo kindness of Dana Rozance.

finally, Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR, Archbishop of Indianapolis, who one year ago almost to the day celebrated Mass and preached at our Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle as we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of “Perfectae Caritatis”, the Second Vatican Council’s document on religious life. After two terms as head of the worldwide Redemptorist order, Archbishop Tobin became Secretary at the Congregation for Religious at the Vatican. He is also a great choice. Today was a “red letter day” for myself and for the Church.

Now, what is all this business about the “Lord and the rings?” When I was announced as bishop of St. Petersburg a number of dear friends “showered” me with regalia. I am grateful for them all. The first was a gift from the late Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus with whom I worked closely in the first visit of St. John Paul II to the US in 1979. He gave me a beautiful ring designed and struck by the Italian artist Scorzelli depicting Easter and the Resurrection of the Lord from the tomb. It was one of two prototypes which the artist had prepared in two sizes as gifts to Pope Paul VI. The Holy Father found the rings too large, too heavy for his personal use so he gave them to Archbishop Marcinkus who gave one to the late Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis (a Chicago seminary classmate of Marcinkus who sat immediately in front of his next in the alphabet friend for their entire seminary experience). That ring was subsequently given by Archbishop May to Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City, Missouri who wears it today. I wore it for my ordination day and on major occasions but gave mine which I cherished to Bishop Etienne within days of his announcement to Cheyenne.

The second ring I received was the night prior to my episcopal ordination and was given to me by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin who came to preach the homily at my ordination the next day. It was a simple but beautiful episcopal ring, struck by a Chicago jeweler. All of his auxiliaries were given similar rings. I wore it from the day after my ordination on January 26, 1996 to the third week in October in the same year when I spent the night at his Chicago residence with the Cardinal only days before his death to cancer.

On that occasion Cardinal Bernardin lamented the changes which had taken place in the national episcopal Conference over the two and a half decades since he himself emerged as General Secretary and later its president. With me those special moments that night were Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, OP of Louisville and Monsignor Daniel Hoye my predecessors in office. The Cardinal showed us some painful letters received from several of his cardinal colleagues, a supportive letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, and recounted a phone call from the Holy Father expressing gratitude for his service to Chicago and the Church universal. That night he felt that the vision of the Council which he had devoted so much of his ministry to was on the wane. He died two weeks later and I removed his ring from my finger promising that I would wear it again when and if the pendulum would begin to swing again to the Council’s and my mentor’s, the Cardinal’s, vision for the Church.

Six months after my episcopal ordination I received what is called a “Council ring” gifted to me by Cardinal Roberto Tucci, SJ, Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, and Dr. Alberto Gaspari, the “dream team” for planning papal visits. The ring is a simple gold band with the Apostles Peter and Paul standing at either side of Christ. I have worn it with the hope that the vision of the Council fathers, Blessed Pope Paul VI and the bishops it was my privilege to serve would begin to take root once again. I think it did today and the Bernardin ring is back on my finger till the Lord comes for me.

With deep gratitude to Pope Francis.



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, October 7th, 2011

The group of priests at this year's convocation, October 6, 2011-Photo kindness of Ed Foster

Approximately eighty-six priests and I have just completed the annual convocation when we get together for prayer, fraternity, and continuing education. From time immemorial, these annual convenings have taken place in a hotel/motel beginning with a Holiday Inn originally in Plant City and in more recent years at the hotel at Sable Park which has changed franchise at least four times in my fifteen years. But, this year, the majority of the priests stayed at the Bethany Center where we have fifty-three private rooms, others stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn, fifteen minutes away at FL 54 and the Suncoast Parkway and a few commuted to and from their rectories. Our topic this year was “Cultivating Unity” which had two aspects: unity among the priests and unity of the priests with their bishop (moi). We are the twenty-first diocese to contract with NOCERCC (National Organization for the Continuing Education of Roman Catholic Clergy) and with CARA (Center for the Applied Research in the Apostolate) who guide and lead the sessions based on input and feedback provided by the priests in advance of the convening through a long questionnaire and focus groups. We currently have 203 active and retired priests in the diocese who were mailed the questionnaire and 127 responded for a 63% response rate. Thirty-four of the priests attended one of the two listening sessions and a CARA representative interviewed me for about an hour. Because these same two groups have conducted the same interviews and measurement process in twenty-one other dioceses, they now have a statistical sampling to compare our priests and the sense of unity with one another and with myself against a larger Church.

Fifty-nine percent of the priests indicated that they felt the unity among themselves was either somewhat strong or very strong and eighty-two percent said that morale among the priests is high. Perhaps the best news is that ninety-five per cent of the priests indicated satisfaction with their lives as priests.  It would be too self-serving of me as the author of this blog to interpret both the data and the days together about the priests’ perception of their relationship with me as their bishop, but it was wonderfully affirming of my presence the past fifteen and one half years, and I will leave it at that. The fathers had four opportunities to discuss among themselves both the survey results and what they might mean for their ministry and for mine. Worries and anxieties tended to settle on the amount of work occasioned by the reduction in the number of priests, the poor position in which they perceive the diocese to be in for serving the rapidly growing Hispanic Catholic population, and some possible initiatives currently being discussed such as a capital funds drive and an initiative to save and/or strengthen Catholic schools. That comprised the work element of our time together.

I have not seen the evaluations of this year’s convocation but I would be very surprised if the presence, wisdom and insights of our Spiritual Moderator, Bishop Paul D. Etienne of the Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming were notBishop Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne off the charts. Again in the interest of transparency, Bishop Etienne and I have been friends for twenty-seven years now and you may recall that I preached at his episcopal ordination two years ago, December 9, 2009. Bishop Etienne spoke to us in homiletic fashion at Mass and Morning and or Evening Prayer each day. Yesterday as we were breaking up to leave for home, one priest after another came up to him to thank him for his presence, to wish him well, and say good-bye, they hope only for a while. I began the practice of asking bishop friends to be present and help us during these convocations for several reasons, not the least of which is that sometimes the office of bishop often seems defined by the governance or administration phase and the sacramental phase, notably presence at confirmations and other significant calendar moments. Some bishops though not this one has a wealth of wonderful theology to share but seldom have an opportunity to do so. That’s why over the fifteen convocations which I have been present for, with the concurrence of the planning committee, I have invited bishops to serve as Spiritual Moderators. They also hear confessions and make themselves available to any priest who wishes to see them. Bishop Etienne was simply wonderful at that. Like myself he writes a regular blog to his people, often rich in spiritual insights (sadly unlike myself) and if you would like to take the measure of the bishop servant who spent four days with your priests, you can access him by Read him after you have read here. I am so proud to be a friend of Bishop Paul and I use this moment to thank him.

Finally, the annual convocation is a major event of planning and execution. For twenty years, Father Michael O’Brien has chaired the committee which works long and hard in advance and during the week to see that we are care for in every conceivable way. I wish to thank Father Mike who is finishing his work (he is now a “Dean” of his deanery) and his committee as well as our outside guests, Father Stephen Fichter of CARA, Father Mark Hession of NOCERCC and Trish of NOCERCC for their invaluable contribution and presence during these days.