“HEAVEN SENT!” That was the headline on the front of Wednesday’s New York Post, which featured a full-page candid shot of New York’s new archbishop, Timothy Michael Dolan.
That enthusiastic banner captured the mood and tenor I experienced in the assembly at the Mass of Installation for Archbishop Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It certainly caught the spirit of Tim Dolan, who brought to the occasion his usual high quotients of spirit, humor and thoughtfulness. Tim is an expansive, warm and extroverted man who takes delight in being with people; and, when in their company, he has the knack of speaking to their minds and hearts in very engaging ways.
His development of the Gospel reading about the travelers on the road to Emmaus led him to some important Easter reflections. He recalled the many signs of Easter life present in the archdiocese yesterday and today. He spoke of the stream of immigrants who entered this country through that great city, of how the church served them, schooled them and helped them become a part of their new nation. He cited the extraordinary generosity of New Yorkers during the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath. Also included in his comments were references to how the church in New York has been committed to honoring life at all of its stages, especially the life of the most vulnerable.
The archbishop did not ignore the Good Friday aspect of the Easter mystery. He spoke of the lingering pain and work yet to be done in the outcome of the scandal of the sexual abuse of the young. He acknowledged tensions and polarity that exist within our community, and recognized the painful divisions yet remaining in the Christian family.
All of this he did while expressing powerfully his belief in the Risen Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working within us and among us. He invited all New Yorkers to walk the road together, to proclaim the Good News by word and deed.
As you might expect, such an event draws people from all parts of the country. There were about 160 cardinals, archbishops and bishops present. People came from Tim’s native St. Louis and from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee where he served before coming to New York.
There were many representatives from the ecumenical and interfaith community. Absent, though saluted fondly by the archbishop, were the members of the Jewish community who were celebrating Passover.
Public officials were very much in evidence. From my place, I could see New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. David Paterson, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, former mayors of New York Ed Koch and Rudy Guiliani. I am sure there were many others whom I did not see or could not recognize from a distance.
I know that one of my lasting memories of the day will be the brief moment I had with Tim when the bishops of the dioceses of the state were invited to greet him personally. In the moment, I remembered the associations I had with him more than 30 years ago when I was on the staff, and he was a seminarian, at the North American College in Rome. Little did I imagine then that we would meet in the circumstances that brought us together at St. Patrick’s on Wednesday.
Please pray for Timothy Dolan and the lay faithful, religious and clergy of the great Archdiocese of New York — that the journey they began together on Wednesday will be blessed every step of the way.
Peace to all.