January 21, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Bishop-designate Coyne is a gift to our local Church

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, gave our Archdiocese of Indianapolis a wonderful Christmas gift.

We have not had an auxiliary bishop since 1933. Bishop Joseph E. Ritter was consecrated in February of that year.

Bishop-designate Christopher Coyne will be ordained on March 2. He will be my assistant bishop, and will also be vicar general of the archdiocese.

Bishop-designate Coyne is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, where he has been pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish for the past four years.

He has a doctorate in liturgy from the Sant’Anselmo Liturgical Institute in Rome. He taught liturgy and homiletics in the seminary in Boston for 10 years before becoming a pastor.

He has also been responsible for communications in the archdiocese, and is regularly on Boston Catholic television. I am told that he loves to ski. He confided to me that he has been a longtime New England Patriots fan. I said that would certainly pass in favor of the Indianapolis Colts.

We owe the new bishop our gratitude for saying “yes” to the Holy Father. He leaves behind his mother and father and five siblings in the Boston area. That has to be a personal sacrifice.

I assured Bishop-designate Coyne that he would receive a heartfelt “Hoosier” welcome in central and southern Indiana. He brings an impressive array of talents and gifts to offer in ministry here.

His main duty will be to help me carry out my responsibilities, which will be a gift. Most of you are aware that I have had some health issues in recent years that have curtailed some of my activities.

I have been assured that our new bishop, at age 52, has lots of energy. It occurs to me that I was his age when I was called to Indianapolis. I am about to mark my 24th anniversary as a bishop, and am entering my 19th year in Indianapolis.

I am excited by the appointment of an auxiliary bishop for our archdiocese. It comes as a surprise, for it is not customary for the Holy See to appoint an auxiliary bishop to assist a bishop who has passed age 70. This is a welcome exception for our local Church. With the help of an energetic assistant bishop, we can continue to lead the archdiocese forward.

When we ordain a successor of the Apostles, we cannot help but think of the original 12. They poured out their life’s blood for love of Jesus Christ and the community of believers. Their intriguing, checkered lives are wonderful testimony that God does great things for us despite the poverty of our humanity.

My predecessor, Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara used to say, “Isn’t it marvelous how much good God accomplishes in spite of ourselves?”

Speaking about the office of a bishop and a priest in his apostolic letter on priestly formation, the late Pope John Paul II quoted St. Augustine, who was speaking for bishops at a celebration of the martyrdom of Sts. Peter and Paul centuries ago.

St. Augustine said: “We are your shepherds, with you we receive nourishment. May the Lord give us the strength to love you to the extent of dying for you either in fact or in desire.”

We are sometimes asked, “What is it like to be a bishop these days, what does it take?” A bishop has to be strong. A bishop is a martyr, not in the “poor me” sense, rather in the original sense of the Greek word. He is a witness like Peter, saying with his very life, “You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Mt 16:16).

In a secularized world that believes only in what it sees, by his consecration and by what he does, Bishop-designate Coyne will be a witness to Mystery.

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. And so in a secular society, the challenge to be a spiritual and moral leader is great. Above all, this means our very life testifies that our human family needs God in a world that would often believe otherwise.

We bishops and priests are visible sacraments of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in a world that needs to see and hear and touch Jesus—and is no longer sure it can.

The single driving motive for our call to ministry in the Church is love of Jesus Christ, and love of him moves us to a pastoral love for the many.

Love of God and belief in his care is the motive that leads us to want to serve and not be served. The pastoral love of Christ in us serves unity and communion in our Church in a divided world. †

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