It's Party Time
Ordination Season begins on Friday when Walker Nickless is crown -- er, ordained and installed -- as bishop of Sioux City, capping the longest vacancy in the modern history of the American hierarchy, a couple days past two years since then-Bishop Dan DiNardo was named coadjutor of Galveston-Houston. Daddy Stafford will most likely be in from Rome to witness the consummation of his handiwork.
(It should be noted that DiNardo's expectancy is nearing its end... He'll be taking over the reins of the Houston archdiocese, home to over a million Catholics, sometime around 25 January, when Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza marks his 75th birthday. The coadjutor's atypically long tenure has allowed for an uber-smooth transition in the newly-minted metropolitan see.)
The diocesan Globe in Sioux City has full pre-ordination coverage, complete with Nickless' coat of arms (replete with four Columbine flowerettes) and the official portrait of the bishop-elect decked out in his dress blacks.
Of course, the Sioux City festival has attracted some acerbic feelings from pockets of the faithful there as Nickless has seen fit to bring a very large throng from Denver, shutting out many of the locals who had hoped to be able to witness the historic (and, given the circumstances, especially long-awaited) event.
To refresh your memories, the jilted parishioners were also asked to pay for the self-same shebanga-bang which they can't attend thanks to Walker's attendant widows from back home.
Given all this, "brazen" would be a charitable adjective to use. Oh well, it's his cred he now has to rebuild...
One of the planners played schoolmarm in the diocesan paper, telling the faithful what would and wouldn't fly. Diplomatically enough, the first words of the headline were "Invitiation-only event"...
I want to stress that this diocese's communication strategy in the pre-ordination period has been an unmitigated disaster:
"I want to stress that it is one ticket per person. It is not one ticket for each couple," she said. "We will be watching the ticket count very closely. If people do not have their ticket with them - even though they have been invited and have RSVPed, they will not be admitted to the church that day. They must have their ticket."
There will be a large number of people from the Denver-area and, as with Bishop DiNardo's ceremony, there will be representation from every parish in the Diocese of Sioux City.
"Each pastor is being asked to invite two parishioners. We will be mailing tickets in care of the pastor for the people that he has selected to represent the parish," said Fuentes. "We also ask for the parishes that are not going to send anyone to let us know that and return the tickets to us so we know exactly what our count is. Given that it is wintertime and there is a possibility for bad weather, we understand that some parishes may not be able to send someone."
Reality: No invite? No ticket? Just slip a C-Note to an usher and you'll be fine. Just don't be too ostentatious about it.
No matter who it is, though, there's always something to seeing a new bishop's official portrait for the first time.
If you're me, you just gasp a bit. It's a part joy, part sobriety thing -- joy that, no matter how hard the church has tried to destroy itself (especially in this cannibalistic age of St. Blog's and its self-righteous crusades), it still keeps moving; sobriety which comes from the understanding that nothing will ever be the same again for the man in purple.
All your relationships change when that chrism gets poured over your head, and anyone who says otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about. For the rest of your life (or until your 75th birthday, if you make it that long), you won't be able to go anywhere without being the center of attention (except Rome, where there are more prelates than pigeons), you'll always know what you're doing wrong and rarely hear what you're doing right, and everyone has an idea, a recommendation, a gripe, a... something. And you're the one who's got to remember, act on and bear it all.
Don't believe the hype, guys (and gals): It's not as easy as the clothes are nice. Well, that's the case if you're doing the job right.
On more than one occasion, on seeing friends in the garb for the first time, I've been known to just start sobbing. Again, because nothing will ever be the same. And, for a good, honest guy, it is such a weight, one which, for the most part, has to be carried alone.
The ordinations continue with Bishop-elect Alex Sample's big day on 25 January in Marquette, his home diocese, and Bishop-elect David Choby's ordination and installation in Nashville on 27 February, getting in under the line right before Lent.
Both Choby and Sample are being ordained in their respective cathedral churches. The latest update from Marquette says that the 45 year-old Sample "has requested that the formal invitation list for his ordination be kept to a minimum to make room for as many representatives from the parishes as possible in the Cathedral itself."
Atta boy. No 300 seats getting sucked up by fiat there.... Suffice it to say, they know their propriety in the UP.
February also brings us the ordination of Fr Randy Calvo as bishop of Reno on the 17th, two days after Archbishop George Niederauer is crowned (with many crowns) and seated on the throne of Mary Maytag in San Francisco.
As Archbishop Pietro Sambi is yet to arrive and assume his duties as apostolic nuncio in the United States, the Holy See will be represented at the January functions by the Consigliere and interim charge d'affaires of the Washington Nunciature, Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli -- who is also making whatever appointment phone calls have to be placed in the nuncio's absence.
It must be noted that Girelli, who'll probably be off to a new assignment later this year after the new nuncio has situated himself, is a key figure in Justin Rigali History (of which your humble narrator is the ranking peritus, of course).
It was the Consigliere (no mob jokes, please -- that's the actual title of the #2 man in every nunciature) who rang Rigali up with the call of his lifetime, sending definitive word that the Junior Widow would complete the family's dynastic cycle....
The Arciprete has never been the same since.