Posts Tagged ‘Retirement’

SO NOW WE WAIT

Thursday, May 26th, 2016
Bishop Lynch Retirement Letter to Pope Francis

The letter that was sent to Pope Francis today.

Today marks only the beginning of the end of my service as Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. It is not the end. That moment comes when my successor who will be the fifth bishop is installed at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle. But today is still a special moment and I sign the letter to Pope Francis asking to be allowed to retire as required by Canon Law and I thank him for the incredible privilege of serving this terrific local Church.

Twenty and a half years ago when I first appeared at the cathedral for a press conference accompanying the announcement of my appointment, my heart and mind were are odds with one another. My mind said accept the honor with dignity and grace and my heart said it was almost criminal to leave the people of St. Mark’s parish in West Broward who in six months I had come to love. Even after coming here and starting, there was still that strange feeling of almost a “divorce” in which both sides lost something valuable.

This morning I woke up with the same battle of heart and mind. The mind said, “Enough is enough and it is time for me to rest and another to lead, be creative, take this local Church to a new level of coming to experience the presence of the Lord.” But my heart said, how can I leave my collaborators in ministry, my priests and deacons and religious women and men, my seminarians, my schools and faith formation leaders and teachers? I love them too much!

If you know me as well as I think you do, you know that while I am relieved, I am not entirely happy. I cried when in July of 1984 I drove out of the gates of St. John Vianney College seminary in Miami to begin my new assignment in Washington. I cried all the way to Hollywood that day but no one was in the car to witness it.

On February 3, 1995 I cried walking from the chapel at the headquarters of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through a wall of people lining the hallway all the way to the front entrance and the parking lot, all crying as much as I. I cried that time all the way to Lorton and the Auto Train depot where a train would take my car and myself back to Miami for a new assignment.

On January 20, 1996 I cried as I said good-bye to my parish staff and teachers grade school children at St. Mark’s and climbed into my car to drive to St. Petersburg and my new assignment. Those tears lasted half way across Alligator Alley until a Seminole tribe sheriff stopped me and warned me that I was pressing the speed limit a tad too close. Just a warning, not a tearful ticket.

If you get the picture, it is that I do not handle major change and the fondest of good-byes well. I was proud of myself that only once and then unnoticed during the ordination last Saturday of the five new priests did I break down and it was after the greeting of peace with Father Felipe Gonzalez whose parents and family were unable to be with him/us in that moment. But at the end, in my own sacristy I shut the door and let loose knowing that I had ordained to the priesthood for the last time and would not have that privilege for the incredible men coming along in the next few years. They are as close to sons as any unmarried male can have but when I leave, they will be my brothers no longer my sons.

Today is not the time for tears. Work continues unabated. You will see that I will be very reluctant to begin new major initiatives or to spend new monies. If the transition were to take place tomorrow, the new bishop would inherit a great diocese made up of talent and treasure – probably the best in Florida and maybe even in the country. We have accomplished something beautiful for God in the last two decades. And you have helped me even in ways of which you are largely unaware. Rarely disappointed and forever grateful, I cannot thank you enough. You have tolerated my eccentricities and peculiarities, you have been loyal even when I have done something which may have hurt. Together we have lived our mantra to this local Church, “how can I help you.”

Today I think of Sue Tully, Vivi, Carmen, Malissa, Maria, Joan, Betty, Frank, Deacon Rick, and Michael, our team in our version of the “West Wing.” Today at this Eucharist which means “thanksgiving” I think of Monsignor Brendan Muldoon, Monsignor Robert Gibbons, Father Alan Weber, Monsignor Frank Mouch, and Monsignor Morris, absent this moment only because his dear Mom has a doctor’s appointment which cannot be missed. I have been the luckiest person in the Church in the United States to have been assisted by these competent, loving, patient people. Thank you Jesus!

So today for this local Church the clock of expectation and hope starts to tick. We are like that parable in the Gospel waiting for the bridegroom knowing neither the day, hour or time of his arrival. But today we start to pray for him and he will remain in our expectation, hope and prayers until he comes. I shall not end as did President Obama at the National Press Club banquet a few weeks ago by simply dropping the microphone and saying “Obama, out!” Rather I will say, “Lynch, on hold.” Thanks and God Bless all of you.

+RNL

P.S. I want to share with you a video that my staff put together for me that you might enjoy. I did.

 

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

SO LONG, FOR A WHILE

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
With Betty and her husband Stan yesterday.

With Betty and her husband Stan yesterday.

Any U.S. bishop who remains in office for any length of time beyond a decade will inevitably face changes among his principal advisors and associates. Vicars-General change (I have had four in eighteen years), Chancellors (I have had two), and the closest collaborators will often turn-over.

Since coming to St. Petersburg on January 26, 1996, I have been blessed with an executive staff who have served this local Church with incredible devotion and dedication and advised me well.

Among the non-clerics, the first took her leave last Friday after almost sixteen years at my side. The affection, admiration and appreciation  has been extended to Elizabeth Deptula, my Secretary for Administration by many over these last few weeks. She received the longest and most heartfelt applause and standing tribute from the Presbyteral Council at her last meeting in November of last year.

Yesterday the entire staff of the Diocese bade their farewell to this great woman of the Church. It was a very difficult moment for me and to help you understand just how important the voice of women is in the Church and how much they are capable of, I am taking the liberty of sharing my parting words to her yesterday. Pope Francis is spot on when he calls for more women in the highest echelons of Church governance and no one, least of all the ordained, should ever be worried about that. After reading this, I hope you will agree with me.

Farewell Remarks to Elizabeth Deptula
on the occasion of her retirement from
The Diocese of St. Petersburg
Tuesday, January 14, 2014

“Eighteen years ago, on the occasion of the public announcement that Blessed Pope John Paul II had named me bishop of St. Petersburg, the local media present at the Cathedral Hall asked me this pointed question: “You were known in Washington for appointing women at the bishops’ conference to major positions of responsibility. Can we expect the same here?”

My answer then was “competence trumps gender but when I can I will utilize the great gifts of women in my role as bishop.” After a first year of getting to know both place and people, I began to search for my first associate who would serve as secretary for the administration of temporalities. One day Father Joel Kovanis called me to ask if I was still searching and I said I was. He said that he knew of a woman, a long-time friend of he and his family, who had just retired as city manager of Clearwater but who might be interested in our position. Soon, Betty Deptula walked into my life and yours. She exuded competence from the start and she has served the Church, and me, and you with loyalty, love and longevity.

After fifteen years she takes her leave of us today. She leaves behind almost a quarter of a billion dollars of construction which she has deftly supervised with some of your help. She has filled key positions in the structure with women and men who have quickly become not just bosses and supervisors but friends and co-workers in the vineyard. She is the Martha and Mary of Bethany, the mother of that special place and she concludes her work by watching over the remodeling of our Cathedral. 

With Paul Ward she saw all of us through the economic downturn with its consequent economic challenges to many sectors of employment, saved your jobs they did, came up with the notion of expanded week-ends in the summer in lieu of raises we could not give. Inevitably she would be asked to referee disputes within our family and no one ever left those moments being mad at Betty. It is she who constantly around Labor Day reminds me that I need to make and announce a decision about our Christmas holiday schedule and she who with Joe Loeber seeks to share bonuses and adjust compensation within the narrow confines of our ability to pay. And with Joan Morgan (our Chancellor) who lovingly cares for the priests, Betty is the sympathetic ear of management whose door has always been open to anyone struggling. That’s what she has been for all of you.

For my office staff, she is the island of calm in the sometimes turbulent sea of problems arising, faced and settled. She has been our friend, our co-worker, our treasured and beloved colleague.

For me, this moment is particularly tough. She was there for me when I embarrassed her and all of you. She gave me strength for the journey then and throughout our time together. She has been my wise and in the language of this season wonder counsellor and she is the first to leave, beginning the last chapter of all of our time together. Sometime ago I asked my team to consider whether or not they would be able to remain with my successor for a few years to help him get started, meaning in all likelihood another five years on the job. I told them that were that unlikely or impossible I would not take it badly should they choose to leave though I would miss them with all my heart. 

Today my heart is neither shattered nor broken. I am happy for Betty and Stan that now they have no work complications for the love they have for each other for forty-five years. Their three sons, the second of whom will soon be ordained deacon and priest, now can claim full ownership of their parent’s time and love. Because they can now divide their time between Peoria and here, I am fairly confident that all of us from time to time can renew the bonds of our friendship with them both. Thank you, Stan, for sharing the woman you have loved all these years with all of us. You both have earned happiness in the years ahead.

Finally, Betty, parting is indeed such sorrow. Your chair was empty at the Side Door Deli this afternoon and your office was dark. For me and for many, we will lovingly, gratefully, and constantly remember these days we have spent in our journey of faith together. These people gathered here today love you, I love you, Stan and the boys love you and God clearly loves you. Thank you for far more than the memories. You were everything I promised this local Church on December 6th, 1995 and far more.”

+RNL