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A witness to mystery.
That is how Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein described Bishop-designate Christopher J. Coyne in a homily that he delivered just minutes before he ordained the former priest from the Boston Archdiocese as the first auxiliary bishop for the Church in central and southern Indiana since 1933.
“In a secularized world that believes only in what it sees, by your consecration and by what you do, Bishop Coyne, you will be a witness to mystery,” Archbishop Buechlein said during the March 2 liturgy at St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis. “The very life and identity of a bishop—and of priests—are rooted in the order of faith, the order of the unseen, and not in the secular order of values.”
In a sense, the 1,000 people that filled the oldest Catholic church in Indianapolis also witnessed mystery during the two-hour ordination Mass. (Related: Watch the video of the Mass | Purchase photo reprints | See other news stories about Bishop Coyne)
Mystery-laden rituals occurred before them that stretch back thousands of years to the earliest days of the Church.
When Archbishop Buechlein, the co-ordaining bishops—Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyo., and Richard G. Lennon of Cleveland—and the 15 other bishops present for the liturgy prayerfully laid their hands on the head of Bishop Coyne, they continued a ritual that the Apostles themselves used to call down the Holy Spirit upon those who would succeed them in their mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations.
Those successors now include Bishop Coyne.
“We can all be good administrators, liturgists, preachers, healers, teachers, good and friendly guys,” Bishop Coyne said in remarks after Communion. “But if we’re not about spreading the Good News of salvation in and through the Catholic Church, then we’ve missed the point of our ministry.”
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Coyne on Jan. 14 to the episcopal ministry that he now takes up in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He noted in his letter of appointment, which was read at the start of the rite of ordination by Father William Stumpf, the moderator of the curia, that Bishop Coyne was “endowed with … outstanding qualities of mind and heart as well as pastoral experience” that made him “suitable for undertaking that office.”
In an interview before the ordination, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston echoed the Holy Father’s assessment of Bishop Coyne.
“We’re very proud of the new bishop, and grateful to the Holy Father for recognizing his talents and ability,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “At the same time, his parishioners and the priests and everyone in Boston will miss him. But we know that the Church is universal, and we all are interdependent upon one another. So we’re delighted that he’ll be here to help the people of this wonderful archdiocese.”
Toward the end of his homily, Archbishop Buechlein summarized for Bishop Coyne all of the various tasks of the office for which he was about to be ordained.
“Bishops are called to live the simple life of the Gospel in a way that somehow mirrors Jesus, the one who serves,” Archbishop Buechlein said. “Wouldn’t you agree that, when all is said and done, what our Church needs more than anything from us bishops and priests is integrity and holiness?
“The Church needs us to be no-nonsense, down to earth, holy, spiritual and moral leaders who are who we claim to be. With Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus, that is the ultimate service, the ultimate witness to the unity of faith.”
The ordination rite that followed included many ancient rituals in addition to the laying on of hands.
While Archbishop Buechlein and the co-ordaining bishops prayed the prayer of ordination, two deacons held an open Book of the Gospels over Bishop Coyne’s head as a symbol of the pre-eminent importance of evangelization in the ministry of a bishop.
Archbishop Buechlein later anointed Bishop Coyne’s head with sacred chrism oil and ritually gave him the insignia of bishops—an episcopal ring, miter and crosier.
Although such symbols mark the distinctiveness of Bishop Coyne’s ministry, he called all present at the Mass to work with him in fulfilling it.
“My friends, we can never lose sight of the fact that the mission of this Church is about salvation, whether we are ordained, religious, or lay men and women,” Bishop Coyne said in his remarks after Communion. “Each of us in our own way is asked to participate in spreading the Good News. As it has in the past, and as it is now, all that we do as Christians must be formed by this truth of the faith.”
He also described the many places and ways in which that Good News is shared with others.
“We proclaim this Gospel from the pulpit, the altar and the baptismal font,” Bishop Coyne said. “We proclaim this Gospel at the hospital bedside, the dining room table, the school classroom, the university hall, the senior center and the nursing home. We proclaim this Gospel on the phone, in e-mail and on the blog.
And, in a humorous aside, he said, “By the way, if you want the address to my blog, just ask.”
That line was one of many that elicited laughter during Bishop Coyne’s remarks. His lighter side came through, especially in the thanks he gave to various people in his life, including his family, many of whom were present at the liturgy.
“To my brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles, my nieces and nephews, and all my cousins that are here, I salute you with a proper Boston salute, ‘You are wicked awesome!’ ” said Bishop Coyne with a particularly thick Boston accent.
Addressing his former parishioners at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Westwood, Mass., dozens of whom were on hand for the liturgy, he jokingly said that he had “asked [Cardinal] O’Malley to send you a new pastor who is a bit of a jerk so you would continue to miss me for a long time.”
All kidding aside, Bishop Coyne closed his remarks by humbly describing himself as “a servant to the Church universal and local, as a brother who walks with you, and as someone who seeks to be a friend to all.
“I am truly excited about coming to Indianapolis and being a bishop for you,” Bishop Coyne said. “I promise that I will try and do all that is possible to be a shepherd after God’s own heart.” †