This is my first Herald of Hope column as the new auxiliary bishop. For almost seven years, I have been writing reflections on the Sunday readings as one of your Catholic Herald’s Scripture columnists. It has always been a great blessing to do, so I look forward to this new opportunity to write about spiritual things on a different page and in a different role.
I want to express a deeply felt gratitude for all of the kindness, prayers, gifts and congratulations that people have offered me since my episcopal appointment in May. Your support truly sustains me as I move forward with hope and excitement in this new opportunity to serve Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. I also want to thank the staff at Cousins Center and the seminary for the many ways they have helped me during the time of the ordination and my adjustment to new circumstances.
In my short time as bishop, I have celebrated parish anniversaries, the installation of pastors and an opening Mass at St. Thomas More High School. I spoke briefly at an evening for liturgical ministers, attended a dinner at Cardinal Stritch University concerning lay ministry, went to various administrative meetings, went to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meeting in Seattle, concelebrated at the ordination of two new bishops in Chicago, went to a four-day retreat with the bishops of our region and am off to Rome for nine days of training on how to be a bishop.
These experiences keep opening me up to the varied and numerous groups, events, institutions and personalities that constitute our local, regional, national and universal church. The Catholic Church is truly the most inculturated, diverse and universal community in the world. I remain amazed by the sheer volume of pastoral activity that goes on every day in parishes, schools, hospitals, religious orders, Bible study groups, meal programs, seminaries, counseling centers and prisons – just in our archdiocese.
Becoming a bishop has led me to reflect more deeply on the church as the Mystical Body of Christ. In his earthly years, Jesus prayed, taught, healed, served, forgave, challenged, accompanied, sacrificed, studied, mourned and ultimately died. The totality of this Christian action continues every day in the church as we carry on the mission of the Lord, even to the ends of the earth. We have become his Body and we incarnate the very life of Christ in this world. What a gift and what a responsibility!
With all of the problems and challenges besetting us at this critical time, we easily forget all of the good that the church accomplishes every day. Our collective contribution to education, health care, social services, art, music, the service of the poor, the struggle for justice and the support of families is considerable. As Catholics, we see all of this outreach as an extension of the Gospel in the world as a way of giving Christ flesh in the particular, as service to the dignity of the human person.
There is a beautiful dynamic between our being and our action; what we do flows out of who we are, but it also molds and shapes our identity. Through sanctifying grace, the Most Holy Trinity abides in us, both communally and individually.
We are the Body of Christ and our action comes forth from his Spirit living within us. I stand in awe of this beautiful vocation we have been given, this church to which we belong as branches on the vine, this Christ who loves us beyond reason. I feel extremely blessed to be with all of you in this great archdiocese!