Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Wuerly Professor

Not even three months after his bittersweet farewell within its walls, Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington (top left, wearing mitre) returned to Pittsburgh’s St Paul Cathedral to preside at today's funeral Mass for Mayor Bob O’Connor, who died last Friday.

In his homily, Fr Terry O’Connor (front), the late mayor’s son, praised his father as a man of great faith who, for all his accolades, never failed to see himself as “one of us.” Four other bishops, the mitred Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, OSB of Latrobe and about 100 priests concelebrated the funeral before an overflow crowd, which has shuttered much of the ‘Burgh as the cortege to Calvary Cemetery wends its way around the Steel City.

While Pittsburgh’s 12th bishop didn’t occupy his former chair at today’s liturgy, he’s got a new one down in DC – an academic one, that is. The Catholic University of America has named Wuerl the first William Cardinal Baum University Professor of Theology. If anyone’s hoping to have him grade their papers once the appointment begins in the spring semester, however, sorry – such is his schedule that, while the star prof won’t be able to teach a term-length class, students in the intro theology courses will get to know Wuerl as a guest lecturer.

As archbishop of Washington, Wuerl is also Catholic’s ex officio chancellor. Last week, he opened the academic year with the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit – and a subsequent welcome picnic. Here’s a snip from his homily:
As you approach this academic year, whether it is your first, last or intervening year on campus, you take an additional step in the formation of your character and the refining of your vision of life. In short, you will mold your outlook in a way that will direct you well into the future.

Another dimension to the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which this university is a living expression, is the realization that we do not face life, the human condition and our response to it alone. It is precisely as a community that the Church receives God’s word, deepens its understanding in that revelation and applies that gift to the circumstances of our day.

A Catholic university, this university, offers you a vision of belonging to something much larger than just yourself. It is not as isolated individuals that we make our way through life but as members of a community — your first experience of this is as a member of a family.

Just as we are nurtured and grow within the confines of our natural family, so do we develop and mature within the embrace of our spiritual family, the Church.

This university opens its doors and arms to everyone. No student who enters this campus is asked to leave his or her faith at the entrance. But as an institution, the university invites all to recognize that the values which guide this university, and life on its campus, are manifestations of the faith of a larger spiritual family — the Church.

This academic learning community, of which you are now a part, is an expression of that communion or community of faith and spiritual conviction.

We should not be surprised if life on this campus is different than what we would experience on some other university and college campuses. By definition, The Catholic University of America family is committed to the exploration of human intellectual advancement precisely out of a lived tradition rooted in the word of God — the wisdom of God. Thus as a university family, we are committed to values and the recognition of the place of virtue in our lives as we develop and face the challenge of personal individual choices and decisions.

By its very definition, the Church will always be countercultural. The beginnings of the kingdom of God breaking into this world will necessarily be in contrast with the wisdom and values of the world. What the living tradition, on which this university stands, brings to our modern world is the wisdom that helps us answer the questions not only what can I do and how can I do it, but what should I do and what ought I do.

At the same time, we are invited into one of the great, if not greatest, human adventures — the changing of the world into a better place that is truly reflective of what the Scriptures call the kingdom of God — a realm of justice, peace, truth, compassion and love.

The Church and her educational institutions have the task of transforming human culture and bringing to fulfillment all of the created goodness that seeks fullness in Christ. The transformation of the temporal order will always be the mission of the Church and its manifold institutional expressions.
Meanwhile, as the archbishop’s quiet summer of adjustment wanes, at the Pastoral Center his unique style is coming ever more to the fore. Notably, the candid shots of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick which had dotted the place are gone, replaced by photos of Wuerl in some of his first appearances in the District. He is said to have his preferred structural tweaks in mind, and it’s expected that they’ll be rolling out in short order.

The O’Connor funeral has been the archbishop’s third liturgy for the dead in recent weeks. Last month his sister, Carol, passed away, and on Monday he celebrated a mind Mass for Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the former nuncio to Washington who died in Rome in early August.

The current papal representative to the US, Archbishop Pietro Sambi (peace be upon him), preached at the Montalvo Mass, held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The all-star turnout included Cardinals Baum and McCarrick in choir dress, the entire nunciature staff and the late nuncio’s much-esteemed underling, now Bishop Matano of Burlington.

It was announced that, in token of his affection for his final diplomatic post, Montalvo’s sisters are donating his pectoral cross and crozier to the National Shrine. There, they will join the chalice of Cardinal Francesco Satolli, the first apostolic delegate to the United States, who served from 1889 to 1896.

AP/Gene J. Puskar
PHOTO 2: Catholic University of America