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Bishop » Bishop-elect Remarks
Good morning. Praised be Jesus Christ! I’m a little embarrassed with the CNS video being shown as an introduction to our gathering. That video was made in my final days in Rome, as I finished ten years as Rector of the Pontifical North American College on February 1, and began a sabbatical, which was to run until July! I had hoped during my sabbatical to spend time with some family and friends, go on retreat, then do some writing on seminary formation, and finally study Spanish in preparation for becoming a pastor in my home diocese.
As of last Monday, those plans have changed! I was in rural Minnesota with some lay and priest friends. Unbeknownst to me, the cell phone reception was not so good and all my calls were going in to voicemail. When I finally realized that something probably wasn’t right and I checked the messages, I discovered that Archbishop Vigano, the Apostolic Nuncio, had called. When we arrived at the rectory where I was staying, I slipped in to my bedroom and called the Archbishop back, while my friends were waiting for me in the living room, to go ice-fishing. The Archbishop, aware from past discussions that I desired to return home from Rome to serve in my diocese and be nearer to my family, after some friendly discussion said to me, “Monsignor, it’s good you did come home from Rome, for I’m happy to tell you that Pope Francis is appointing you as the bishop of Metuchen.”
After we hung up, I knelt down next to the bed and before a crucifix and said a prayer to Our Lady for the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Metuchen and to ask for her protection and assistance for me. I then got up, joined my friends and off we went ice fishing. I pray that I will be more successful as a bishop than I was at ice fishing.
My primary work these past 12 ½ years has been in forming seminarians so that they can serve as effective parish priests here in our beloved homeland. I know that the parish is crucially important in the life of the Church and as I was leaving Rome I asked my bishop if I could return to parish work. It never occurred to me that I would be asked to be pastor of a parish this big! I’m grateful for the Holy Father’s confidence that I will be able to shepherd this vibrant Church of over 640,000 souls, and I very much look forward to working with and supporting the good pastors, priests, deacons, religious and lay ministers who are already laboring in this vineyard.
St. Augustine once defined the office of bishop, as an “Office of Love”, as it is the Bishop who is to give certainty that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ is never lacking in a local Church. Touched by a bit of holy fear, I am certainly humbled to become the shepherd of this wonderful diocese and I look forward to striving to fulfill the demanding task of ensuring that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ continues to be abundant here in Metuchen. I promise you my prayers and my commitment to serve to the best of my abilities.
I learned after my ordination to the priesthood that although ordination brought many, many graces with it, it didn’t infuse the perfection of the virtues, and I imagine ordination to the episcopacy will be the same…so I am very much aware of my own deficiencies but at the same time encouraged to be taking on this office during this great Jubilee of Mercy. I’m likewise inspired by the wonderful example of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who sets such a high and challenging standard for us.
I’ve been reading everything that I can find about the Diocese of Metuchen and know that it is still a young diocese, 35 years this upcoming fall. Now this young diocese has a baby bishop to go with it and I’m going to be depending upon your help and prayers. In particular, I will be grateful for the advice and support of Bishop Paul Bootkoski who will be close by and who has led and loved the people of this diocese for the past 14 years. Thank you, Bishop, for your good leadership and care of this diocese.
I have a lot of gratitude in my heart today and I’d like to offer some words of appreciation:
I love being a priest, and I’m so grateful to God for His love and for His calling me to be with Him and follow Him in the priesthood. I’m also grateful to God for the grace He has given me over these 23 years which has sustained me in being faithful to my priestly promises.
I’m grateful to my mom and dad for the gift of life and for teaching their children what love looks like in daily life. I am thankful as well to my 2 sisters and my brother and their spouses, as well as my 6 nieces and nephews: I count it a blessing to be in a family of love, encouragement and patience. Extended family and friends so often take on this role for us too, and I’ve been blessed with an abundance of these.
I’m grateful as well to the Church which has nurtured me in the faith over the years. Except for my years in seminary, both in formation and on the faculty, I’ve lived in the Diocese of Camden all my life. There, I was blessed with a great home parish-- St. John’s in Collingswood. I attended the parish grammar school and then was educated at a nearby Catholic High School, Paul VI. In all of those years of Catholic education, I had priests, sisters and teachers who encouraged and nourished me. As a matter of fact, at St. John’s I often heard our good and generous Mercy Sisters speak lovingly of their community and motherhouse here in Watchung, here in this Diocese. I’m grateful to that local religious community and to all who worked to pass on the faith to me.
I’ve also been blessed with good priest mentors, especially from the presbyterate in Camden and from the faculty, past and present, of the North American College: exceptional men of God, who helped teach me how to be a pastor and shepherd. We’ve had great bishops in Camden and I consider it a real privilege to have had the opportunity to work closely with a few of them, seeing firsthand the necessity that the Bishop be a man of prayer and communion, in close friendship with the Lord, especially given the challenges involved in shepherding a diocese.
I’m particularly grateful that the recent bishops of Camden allowed me to become involved in the work of priestly formation at the North American College. That experience has deepened my love for the priesthood and the Church and enriched my own priestly life and ministry, as I, along with our exceptional formation faculty, annually shepherded the 250 generous, dedicated seminarians of the Pontifical North American College, the 78 priests from our graduate house, the Casa Santa Maria, and the 33 priests who came each semester for sabbatical. I have no doubt that the daily inspiration I had received from them has been a unique preparation for me for this new ministry here with you.
As I prepare to begin to serve in this beautiful diocese, I ask for your prayers and will be depending upon them. I pray that we may together build up this portion of the people of God into an enduring and convincing sign of the Kingdom for our Church and world. Thank you and God bless you.