When I received a totally unexpected call from the Diocesan Administrator this past Spring, asking me to leave the two parishes I was pastoring, and which I loved (I love Divine Mercy parishioners! Don’t mistake what I am saying here.) it took a very special act of obedience. I recalled immediately the promise of obedience I had made to the Bishop when I was ordained in 1997. I thought immediately of how the Diocesan Administrator and Priests’ Personnel Board were legitimately established, and how the Archbishop of Cincinnati was – at least from a distance – overseeing the processes. The point is that, no matter how well-meaning the interim administrators were, the lack of an actual seated bishop was keenly felt, especially by priests such as me whose assignments were significantly altered in this sede vacante period. Bishops are key in the Church’s structure. Listen to what Pope Francis said regarding bishops in his recent Wednesday Audience of November 6th:
This maternity of the Church is expressed in particular in the person of the Bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them to proclaim the Gospel and to feed His flock, so the Bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian communities, as guarantors of their faith and as a living sign of the Lord’s presence in our midst.
Dear friends, all this makes us understand why Christian communities recognize in the Bishop a great gift, and they are called to nourish a sincere and profound communion with him, beginning with the Presbyters and the Deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful, the priests, deacons are not united around their bishop. The Church that is not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union of all the faithful with the Bishop. As well as the priests and deacons too. And this in the awareness that it is precisely in the Bishop that the bond is rendered visible of each Church with the Apostles and with all the other communities, united with their Bishops and the Pope in the one Church of the Lord Jesus, which is our Hierarchic Holy Mother Church.
I truly do consider His Excellency, the newly installed Bishop Daniel Thomas, a gift to our diocese. And I am very hopeful that we will all benefit from Bishop Thomas’ many years in Rome, as well as his first episcopal years as an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, assisting Archbishop Chaput. Some priests from Philadelphia with whom I spoke at the installation told me, “Toledo hit the ‘bishop jackpot’.”
So my letter this weekend is intended especially to invite and encourage you to attend the Bishop’s first visit to our deanery on November 17th at 7pm at St. John’s Defiance Parish. Bishop Thomas wanted to visit all the deaneries before the end of the year, and he started with the deaneries in the peripheries of the Diocese; so we get one of the first visits.
The evening will consist of formal Evening Prayer/Vespers, led by the Bishop, and then a reception afterwards. People will be able to speak with the Bishop and take pictures at the reception. (The priests of the deanery will have dinner with the Bishop just before vespers.) All of the parishes will have some representation at the vespers. Our parish, for example, is providing the mitre and crosier bearers for the Bishop during the ceremony. I hope to see you in Defiance then. We want to welcome the Bishop as a gift from Jesus Himself, and this requires a fine turnout at this first formal visit.
Have a great week!
In cordibus Iesu et Marie,