On May 27, I came to the end of the jubilee observance of my episcopal ordination. On that date in 1979, Pope John Paul II ordained 26 of us in a celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Memory tells me that we came from 11 countries on five continents. Five of us, including Mt. Morris native Bishop Thomas Larkin, hailed from the United States.
One month later, June 26, 1979, I was welcomed to this diocese and formally installed as your bishop in a magnificent liturgy at the Rochester War Memorial. Those two dates were and still are pivotal moments in my life.
The deepest memory of the celebration in Rome is the reminder that a bishop, by virtue of his ordination, becomes a member of the episcopal college. That body, with the pope at its head, shares responsibility for the faith and spiritual well-being of the whole church. I have always appreciated the memory of my ordination because it reminds me that the life of our local church must always be lived in full respect for the bonds of faith and charity which unite us to the church at Rome and all of the other local churches that are part of our communion.
The memory of the Liturgy of Installation is a bright and beautiful one because it was my first exposure to the strength and richness of this diocese. I experienced your hospitality, your warmth, your faith and your willingness to place your gifts at the service of the kingdom. I know that I was not the only one who loved that liturgy. To this day, I meet people who speak with joy about that night and what it meant to their faith.
Those events provide a starting point, a benchmark of sorts against which I have remembered all that has happened in the years since. The newly married couple does not exit the church on their wedding day fully mature in their vocation. The newly professed woman or man religious realizes that the years ahead will deepen what began on the day of their profession. On those May and June days in 1979, I knew that I was beginning a new venture, but I could hardly imagine all that would happen over the next quarter of a century.
At the end of this jubilee year, my heart is filled with gratitude to God and to Pope John Paul II for the call to serve as your bishop. I am deeply grateful as well to all of the people who have been a part of the Diocese of Rochester in all of my years here. You have been loving, supportive and encouraging of me since the day I have arrived. You have been kind enough to challenge me when I needed to learn new things; you have been patient with my need to grow and mature in my vocation.
I can’t thank you enough for the loving and generous ways in which you have made this year of jubilee so special for me. Your kind notes, your generous gifts, the old photographs, the memories shared in private moments and at delightful parties have all helped me to remember the events, projects and relationships of these years in very peaceful ways.
Had I known in 1979, by some kind of foreknowledge, all that was to happen in my life in the next 25 years, I would surely have collapsed under the weight of it all. But, as I look back on these years in May of 2005, I can only thank God and the good people of this diocese for the incredible experience it has been. You have helped me to understand more deeply than ever that the Lord is always true to his promise to be with us always. We are never alone. We never need rely just on our own strength but can count on the grace and help of God shown to us in countless quiet and ordinary ways.
Thank you, dear friends, for all that you have done for me in my time among you. You have helped make the experience so life-giving and rewarding that I look to the future with a sense of peace and confidence.
Peace to all.