Posts Tagged ‘Bishop Paul Etienne’

THE LORD AND THE RINGS

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.

dsc_0716

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.

bishopfarrell_cropped

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.

+RNL

PRICE OF OIL REMAINS THE SAME AS LAST YEAR!

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The opening prayer. My brother priests celebrating 25 and 40 years of priesthood are on the altar to my right, with half of my brother priests in attendance behind them (the other half in attendance were behind those celebrating their 50th and 60th years of priesthood to my left). Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

This morning was the annual Chrism Mass for the diocese at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle in St. Petersburg. It is one of my favorite moments in my service as bishop as all my brother priests gather together annually publicly to recommit themselves to their priestly ministry, and the oil of the catechumens, infirm and sacred chrism are blessed in the case of the first two and consecrated in the case of the third. The Cathedral is always packed as each parish sends representatives, at least one for each of the oils and priests and deacons are present in great number. I have always thought that our diocesan Office of Worship as well as the staff of the Cathedral really knock themselves out to provide a glorious liturgy which makes all present proud. A large choir gathered from the parishes of the diocese sing their hearts out as well. There is nothing like a full Cathedral, brother priests united with me in our privileged and blessed ministry, the singing of the “Gloria” sneaking back into Liturgy having largely been absent for these thirty-eight days of Lent to reassure all present that the Church remains vibrant and strong.

Blessing the Oil of the Sick. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

I mentioned above that the oils in use throughout the coming year are either blessed or consecrated during this annual Mass. The Oil of Catechumens is used at baptism as the first of the two sacred oils which are parts of this sacrament of initiation. The Oil of the Infirm is used only during the administration of the Sacrament of the Sick. Both of these oils come from a type of Olive Oil and they are blessed both in large urns and also in other containers brought today from the parishes and held up during the part of the ceremony which comprises the blessing (following the promise of recommitment of the priests and the homily.) Olive oil was both precious but plentiful at the time of our Lord and when mention was made yesterday in the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week of Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus breaking out a precious alabaster jar and anointing the feet of Jesus, one senses its intrinsic value in Jewish life two thousand years ago. Sacred Chrism is the same olive oil to which is added a perfume, making it even richer. Used in ancient times to anoint kings, chrism has a special place in the life of our Church today. It is an integral part of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and ordination to the priesthood and to the episcopacy (in the former the ordaining bishop anoints the palms of the hands of the one just ordained as a priest and in the latter, the ordaining bishop pours the oil over the head of the man being ordained as a bishop). There is only one other moment in Church life when the oil of Sacred Chrism is used for something other than the administration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and holy orders and that  is when an altar is consecrated in a new Church or a remodeled Church and in the case of the former, it is also used on the walls of a totally new Church. The Cathedral asks for a small stipend of each parish to cover the cost of the oils/perfume and that has remained the same ever since I arrived (making me perhaps the only oil producing leader who has not raised oil prices in sixteen years).

Breathing into the urns holding the oil. Photo kindness of Maria Mertens.

Finally, at one point during the consecration of the Sacred Chrism, the bishop breathes into the urns holding the oil. Approaching seventy one years of age, I notice that the length of time I am able to breathe is becoming less and less with each passing year. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Chrism Mass (and it still is in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica) was celebrated on Holy Thursday morning and the priests had to rush out immediately for their parishes to prepare for the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper later that night. After the Council it began to be moved from that date to another day either in Holy Week or the week just prior because of distances to be travelled. Think of this for a moment. The Diocese of St. Petersburg and its five counties (Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus) is only 4,500 square miles roughly. My friend Bishop Paul Etienne who  is the bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming has the whole state or 100,000 square miles. Some parishes drive six hours to attend the Chrism Mass there. I am so lucky in so many ways, including and especially the priests and deacons who share the mantle of pastoral ministry and leadership with me. If you are in search of cheap oil but rich in symbol, cast a glance at the ambery in your parish where the oils are displayed and thank the Lord for this great sign of blessing and consecration.

Finally, click here if you wish to read my homily at today’s Mass of the Chrism. You can click here to watch the video of it. To see more photos taken during the Chrism Mass, click here. More Thursday on the first night of the Triduum.

+RNL

DEVOTEDLY YOURS TOO – 40,000 FEET

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Hearkening back to my blog entry on the way to Seattle I find myself once again on United, flying over one of those big square states that all look alike between Colorado and the Mississippi River. Our bishops meeting in Seattle ended one hour later than scheduled last night in Bellevue, Washington with a very long Executive Session. The public agenda was very light as I have previously indicated and pretty much devoid of disagreement as I have noted already.

There is a short, succinct statement of the bishops on the matter of Physician Assisted Suicide which can be read on the USCCB website by clicking here. I found it interesting that the site of the acceptance of the document happened in a state (and along with its neighbor Oregon) which allows for it legally and that it follows closely the death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian a few days ago – probably the most famous and fatal administrator of assisted suicide in the history of this nation.

Attention was given to fixing some things in the Dallas Charter for another two years before it will once again be revisited and reexamined. I know that some people, particularly victims and groups representing them believe that there are large lacuna in the charter and things which the bishops do not wish to change. Personally, as I have written earlier this week in the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, I recognize that the Charter is not a perfect roadmap to complete and total child safety but its efficacy can be seen in the radical drop in new reports of sexual misconduct against minors by priests and other Church employees. In our area of the country, our diocese, you have not had a reported instance after 1995 and contrast that with the instances in the five county public school districts and other organizations dealing with kids.

Our Diocese will be audited under some new rules as well as under some previous rules in October of this year. There is a new auditing firm. They do what are called compliance audits to make sure you are doing precisely what you promised to do. My staff and I welcome this visit and are prepared to tell them that there have been no complaints against priests, religious, volunteers, staff, faculty or volunteers during the period of the audit.

The bishops did agree to start implementing the music attached to the new Mass translations which will be used throughout the Liturgy on the First Sunday of Advent this year, so we will begin to sing the Gloria and the Agnus Dei in English using the new translation in our parishes beginning in September. I need to consult with the staff of my Worship Office to find out how best to accomplish this, so stay tuned here for more information as it becomes available.

Bishops’ meetings are opportunities to spend time with old friends, from the staff of the Conference as well as with brother bishops. This meeting marked the 51st General Meeting I have attended, either as staff (22) or as a bishop (29). My good friend Bishop Paul Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyoming, boarded the flight with me in Denver last Sunday and we spent Monday on Puget Sound and celebrated his birthday on the 15th.

What is always hard for me is that the membership of the episcopal conference is about eighty per cent new since I left the Conference’s employ and became a bishop myself. Faces that I could recognize in a nano-second are no longer present and the new faces one does not see often enough to etch them in memory. The outgoing General Secretary paid a nice but unnecessary compliment to me in his farewell speech and now I shall miss him unless and until he returns as a member.

Finally, they almost all want to come back to St. Petersburg for a meeting and soon. They loved the Vinoy, the waterfront, the gelateria on Beach Drive, the walks to Albert Whitted Airport and the Rays baseball games. I told them, you had better hurry, and the clock is ticking quickly on my time. I was happy they loved our area so much. Also the Bethany Center gets brought up often as a destination of choice for retreats and meetings. So we may not have Mt. Rainer (saw it for the first time this morning in all its glory) or Puget Sound or a seafood store where the employees toss salmon at you but we do have things which give birth to good memories. I will be glad when in one hour I step forth at TIA once again and am back with those I love.

+RNL

BLESSED JOHN PAUL II – PART TWO

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

The second visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was radically different in many ways from the first. President Ronald Reagan had invited the Pope to make a pastoral visit this time and the United Nations was not involved. Since the last visit in 1979 both the Pope and the President were survivors of assassination attempts and so security concerns were ratcheted up significantly. More people and dioceses wanted the Pope even though the cost to the host diocese ran at least three million dollars a day and with nine years in office behind him, every US Church agency wanted a piece of the action. Disney World wanted him desperately for a meeting with the youth of the world at EPCOT (making me one of the few Floridians to ever say “no” to Disney and live to tell of it).

In Rome my dear friend Archbishop Marcinkus had been replaced by a new team of papal advance members led by the Jesuit head of Vatican Radio, Father Roberto Tucci, SJ who is now a cardinal. Assisting him were two of the finest men one would wish to work with, Monsignor Emil Tscherrig from the Secretariat of State and Dr. Alberto Gasbari from Vatican Radio. But John Paul remained the same, just a little older. There were two preparatory meetings with him, which included lunch in his apartment, and a meeting of all the host bishops and the archbishops of the United States with him in Rome in advance of the meeting. Tensions were running somewhat high as agendas were beginning to emerge in the United States. In the visit of 1979, only an address by Sister Theresa Kane, the head of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had raised some concerns but I am certain that the Pope did not hear her. Little known to anyone at the time was that the young pope was near deaf in one ear and the sound in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was not advantageous for him to hear. Almost every picture ever taken with him never shows him looking at the person but turned so he could hear with his good ear.

But it seemed in 1987 everyone wanted an opportunity to speak to him, hoping to elicit a favorable response. So Monsignor Frank McNulty of Newark addressed him on behalf of priests in Miami, Donna Hanson, a lay woman from Spokane, Washington addressed him in San Francisco, Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop Quinn, Archbishop Pilarczyk and Archbishop Weakland addressed him in Los Angeles, the National Catholic Education Association, the Catholic Health Association, and many others spoke their concerns. The Holy Father always had a prepared response as those writing for him had advance looks at the texts.

The Native American Blessing with an Eagle's Feather

Three things gave him special energy in this visit. Although earlier in the day for the first and only time in his entire pontificate his Mass was interrupted and rained out in Miami, he was at his best that day in Columbia, South Carolina on the campus of that state’s University. He could lot believe the tens of thousands of students in a state he knew to be 1% Catholic would gather on the quadrangle and cheer for him and remain while he conducted a ninety minute ecumenical and interreligious exchange with religious leaders from throughout the United States. There were as many students still there when he exited as when he went in and he commented to me, “These young people, they are not Catholic?”  Later he and Billy Graham were to share the stage in the football stadium for a truly ecumenical prayer service, which was frowned upon by some of those travelling with him from Rome.

He also enjoyed a meeting with Native Americans in Phoenix, which included their ritual blessing with an eagle feather, also causing some alacrity with his travelling party that a largely pagan sign would be used with him but something, which clearly he enjoyed.

The Holy Father Meeting Young People at the Superdome

And as in 1979 at Madison Square Garden, in 1987 the meeting with the young people of New Orleans and elsewhere who would fill the vast Superdome brought him special happiness. He was more comfortable and at ease with kids than with bishops by far. Their spontaneous response to his obvious thrill of being with them and their love for him drew them closer to him always.

Popes carry burdens of soul, which few others have to carry. The 1987 visit was right when the AIDS pandemic was spreading and becoming better known in the U.S. Church teaching on condom use and abstinence were not well received in many quarters and to those involved in AIDS ministry and even to those suffering from the disease, the Church in general and the Pope especially seemed insensitive, uncaring, even cruel. When at the old Serra Mission in San Francisco at a prayer service for those with AIDS the pope picked up a child with aids and hugged an adult and embraced him, hearts melted and compassion marked the Gospel. It was quite a moment for me, one that I had helped arrange with the assistance of my Roman colleagues but somewhat looked askance at by others.

John Paul II arrived in Miami with a long and warm meeting between two men nearly killed by an assassin’s bullet and it ended with Vice-President George H. W. Bush offering farewell remarks in Detroit, a city added at the insistence of Archbishop Edmund Szoka which required flying back two thirds of the way across the U.S. and then West again into the Northwest Territory to Fort Simpson in Canada to keep a date he had to cancel several years prior due to fog precluding the landing of his plane at that time. The Holy Father was clearly weakened by his horrible moment with history and not exactly the same as in 1979 but he kept a hectic daily schedule nonetheless and there was always that time for meditation and prayer. Bone tired at midday, on this trip with a scheduled brief rest he would recover well enough to keep a schedule that would kill me at his age, drawing strength from inside himself and at prayer, never wishing to disappoint anyone, and renewed by the adulation of the masses of people who came to pray, listen and reflect with him, especially the young. On both occasions he was impressed with the vitality of the Church in the United States and liked the manner in which we prayed. He mentioned this to the officers and I after his trip in the Fall of 1987 at lunch with him in Rome. For this trip I asked Bishop Larkin if I could have the services of Father John Tapp to assist essentially in the care and feeding of the papal entourage who came with the Pope from Rome and he had his hands full. Also I hired a young lay man from Indiana to work for a year and a half with the Secret Service and the USCC Communications office in arranging for the needs of the local and traveling press (about 300 travelled with us on the full ten day trip). His name was Paul Etienne and he is now the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

On the TWA 747 in Detroit I climbed the steps once again. This time he was ready for me having been reminded by someone of my quip in Washington in 1979 that he could come back but not too soon. He gave me that half smile and said, “Father, will I be welcome again?” Off he went to Fort Simpson and my life returned to normal.

+RNL

 

BISHOP’S BEST BLOG BOGS

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Besides being somewhat in love with alliteration, the title of this post is somewhat tricky. Does it means where one can bog down in the blogs which this bishop follows closely and enjoys immensely or does it mean that I am reviewing my work of the last three years searching for the place where I “bogged” down on an issue or a topic. Actually, it is the former and is in response to perhaps the most often asked question which I receive on my blog. Everyday, without fail, I look at the following three blogs:

Screen shot of Whispers in the Loggia

Whispers in the Loggia

Rocco Palmo, Author of Whispers in the Loggia

Rocco Palmo, Author of Whispers in the Loggia

As I have often pointed out, the mother of all ecclesial blogs and the inspiration for my beginning this effort three years ago is called Whispers in the Loggia. Written by Philadelphian Rocco Palmo, this blog covers the Church incredibly well and very fairly. I suspect and suggest it is clear that the author loves his Church, while realistically understanding that wholeness is an eschatological reality and between here and there, the Church sometimes has aspects that are neither tidy nor perfect. Whispers it seems to me does not get polemical but can sometimes be absolutely poetical in its reflections on saints of today and yesterday, historical moments in the Church’s life and a good spin on what popes, conferences of bishops and individual bishops and others are saying. I used to say that one could be a very learned person on many things if one just took the time to read (in its old format no longer extant) the Wall Street Journal’s three front page articles, the right, left and center stories which would go on for pages illuminating in great detail life on this planet in its various manifestations. In the world of our Church, I think Whispers serves the same purpose – it is at once illuminating, informative, and fair. I suppose it does not hurt that when it comes to appointments of bishops, if that is one’s interest, the author of this blog is often ahead of the curve  by a few hours. Anyway, it was this blog bog that moved me to begin to write this current effort and if you have not acquainted yourself with it, I suggest you try it week after next during the Fall meeting of the nation’s bishops. I will be reading to see if other than elections to Conference office, Rocco Palmo finds many other reasons for our meeting this year. Try it, I think you will like it.

Screen shot of Truth in Love

Truth in Love, Bishop Paul D. Etienne's blog

Most Rev. Paul Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne

Most Rev. Paul Etienne, Bishop of Cheyenne

In a classic case of the student outshining his mentor, my dear friend Bishop Paul D. Etienne is a faithful blogger since his ordination to the episcopacy last December 9, 2009. I wish I could write so well about things spiritual as this young bishop does. While one has to be patient with more than an occasional picture of a fish hanging at the end of a line, there is good fishing for sound spiritual theology in Bishop Etienne’s reflections, often on the daily readings, saints, and life in the vast Wyoming space. He has agreed to be the spiritual director of our October 2011 Convocation of Priests here in St. Petersburg and that alone should be worth the time my priests take to be with one another. Bishop Etienne’s writings come from his own life in priesthood and from his love of such diverse realities as St. Catherine of Siena about whom he wrote his Licentiate paper in Rome to nature and the outdoors. If one is looking for that thought where you might best connect with God’s loving plan for creation and redemption, a few minutes spent with Truth in Love is a great place to start.

Screen shot of Catholic Education

Catholic Education, Michael Zelenka's blog

Michael Zelenka

Michael Zelenka, Principal of Incarnation Catholic School

Finally, I am not the only person in the diocese of St. Petersburg to spend some time time blogging. There is a new principal of Incarnation School in Tampa who posts something new, timely, reflective, thoughtful and theologically very sound about once a week. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that Michael Zelenka came to this diocese as a graduate of Notre Dame and spent two years teaching at St. Petersburg Catholic High School in ND’s Alliance for Catholic Education program (ACE), followed that with five years as the first Athletic Director of the new Bishop McLaughlin High School in Pasco County, then after gaining a second Masters degree, this time in Educational Administration from Notre Dame, he was Assistant Principal at Christ the King School in Tampa before beginning this summer at Incarnation.  I witnessed the marriage of Mike to his wife Emily (herself a teacher at Villa Madonna School in Tampa) and have remained close to them since their marriage. Now having warned you of all my prejudices, I invite you to take a look at Michael’s blog entries. Mike was a “walk-on” in football all four undergraduate years as Notre Dame and his older brother, Joe, is the long snapper for the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL, so he speaks passionately and convincingly on occasion of a spirituality which should infect all sports and athletics. However, you don’t have to know a shuttlecock from a racket to appreciate his thoughtful reflections on the faith formation role of Catholic Education. Try it and you will like it.

Well that it. That’s where you can find me bogged down in my best blogs. And I thought this was going to be a short entry. I am bogged down myself. Watch this site for the next entry which will be entitled and focus upon “pajama parties.”

+RNL

PONTIFICAL LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE IN ONE WEEK

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Regular readers of this blog know that last week I took special delight in the naming of my associate pastor at St, Mark’s parish in Dania,  Father Fernando Isern, as bishop of the Colorado diocese of Pueblo. While celibates do not give birth to progeny, I hope we can be forgiven for the joy and satisfaction which is ours when someone with whom we have worked or know well is also entrusted with shepherding or assisting in shepherding a local Church. Today someone even closer to me over the years was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI as the next bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, a huge territory with about 50,000 Catholics in the state.

Bishop-Elect Paul Etienne

Bishop-Elect Paul Etienne

Father Paul Etienne first came into my life as a graduate of the College of St. Thomas in 1985. He had been a college seminarian at St. John Vianney College seminary on the campus of St. Thomas and had decided to take some time off to reflect on the commitment to celibacy. The Rector then, now Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, called our office at the Bishop’s Conference and said he had a young man who was making a mistake, that he had a vocation to priesthood but needed time. Knowing that we were looking for temporary help for the upcoming 1986 papal visit, the General Secretary at that time and my boss, Monsignor Daniel Hoye and I interviewed Paul and were impressed with his very successful background as a young business man after high school graduation and his academic achievements. Even though he came to Washington wearing “cowboy boots” we hired him and I got to know my co-worker well. He did an outstanding job for the papal visit but hated Washington and its big-city, urban environment. He was from Tell City, a small but very Catholic town along the Ohio River where the public school had been run by the parish and nuns. He was from a close-knit family of six children, faith-filled, loving parents, a small town. When the trip was over, he could not wait to return to Tell City, search for a job, and see how a relationship with a young woman he had met developed. That was November.

In December his older brother Bernie announced that he was entering the seminary and studying for the Evansville diocese where he was living. In the first week of January, Paul called me and said that he felt called again to the priesthood and would be approaching the Archbishop of Indianapolis about entering the seminary. At first I was incredulous, skeptical and challenging, wondering if this was not a reaction to Bernie’s decision. His younger sister had already begun the process of entering the Beech Grove Benedictine community. To make a long story short, Paul entered the North American College that Fall and four years later was ordained the first of the Etienne brothers. I vested him at his diaconate and preached his first Mass in Tell City.

A year later, brother Bernie was ordained, and about ten years after that brother Zach (Zachary) was also ordained for the Evansville diocese. Bishop-Elect Paul has had a good priesthood and has been a much loved and admired pastor of now four parishes, although the last two prior to returning in the summer as pastor of his home parish in Tell City lasted only one year each due to his co-responsibilities as Vice-Rector of Indianapolis’ college seminary program. Sister Nicolette has just finished a term as her community’s Vocation Director and now has returned to her first love, teaching. Brother Richard and sister Angela are the two “normal” siblings who have chosen marriage and each have children. It is going to be hard for this family to say good-bye to Paul who is going quite far away.

One final note. The three priest brothers are avid hunters. For ordination gifts, they gave each other hunting rifles. Come deer season, the boys can be found on their wooded farm behind some blind waiting for a vulnerable deer. I know; I have inadvertently placed a phone call to them only to be greeted by the sound of a rifle going off and told to hang up. I have already cautioned the bishop-elect that if he chooses to go hunting in season in Yellowstone (almost entirely in his diocese) or in the Tetons, he would do well to find out where former Vice-President Cheney (who lives outside of Jackson Hole) will be hunting that day!

Cheyenne’s lucky. They are getting a pastor, not a Church bureaucrat, and someone who will love and lead them.

+RNL