Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kurtz So Good

OK, so (in the interests of full disclosure) that headline comes courtesy of another piece on someone completely unrelated to the focus of this one.

However, it's August, it's hot, the hed fits -- and the appointment of the week was called on these pages two days ago.

Go easy on me... just this once.

To business, tomorrow's Solemnity of the Assumption brings the installation of Archbishop-elect Joseph Kurtz of Louisville. The 2pm liturgy -- to be held in the city's Gardens hall, across the street from the Cathedral of the Assumption -- will take place in the presence of over 40 bishops, led by Philadephia's own Most High Pharaoh. Already in his possession, Kurtz will don the pallium he received from Pope Benedict in late June, weeks after his appointment to the 200,000-member archdiocese, which celebrates the bicentennial of its founding next year.

The enthronement of the first archbishop to hail from the diocese of Allentown -- now and forever the ecclesiastical suburb of this River City -- will take place on the 30th anniversary of outgoing Archbishop Thomas Kelly's episcopal ordination. It also marks the end of a sizable era, with Kelly's departure from the throne after more than 25 years in the Bluegrass mecca.

Fortuitously, a meeting of the bishops of the Louisville province had been scheduled for yesterday, so with his new suffragans in tow -- and the Knoxville seat now empty, of course -- Kurtz kicked off the week at a cathedral vespers service last night.

Details from the local CoJo:
"It's very fitting that we would gather on our first occasion to pray," Kurtz said of the service, which included a series of hymns, chanted Scriptures and a Latin choral anthem and is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, which priests and deacons pray each day.

"To pray the Liturgy of the Hours reminds us not only of our call to pray for all the faithful, but together to pray for the world," he said.

Between such sentiments, Kurtz used humor, much of it at his own expense, to introduce himself to the clergy he now leads.

The former bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in June to succeed Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, joked, for example, that his first test as archbishop was to learn to use a clip-on microphone. He added that he feared that if he said there was something wrong with the mike, the congregation would automatically voice the liturgical response, "And also with you."

Kurtz also noted that he has been praying for Louisville priests by name for the past several weeks, using a photo directory to match faces with names -- except that the most recent version he had in Knoxville was from 2000.

"I've been praying for a younger version of each one of you," he said. "I hope you're praying for a younger version of myself."

Speaking on the day's Scripture reading, he called on priests to live out their gifts "in a way that calls for unity in truth, and in charity."

"In truth," he continued, "that we will always embrace the gifts of our Catholic faith and teach and proclaim those gifts with accuracy and devotion. And in charity, that we will not be tempted to simply gather with people with whom we are initially comfortable, but rather we will always reach out to each of those with whom we serve."

Kurtz also paid tribute to Kelly, who received a lengthy standing ovation from the clerics, and said Kelly had spoken highly of the priests, telling him, "You will love them."

Priests afterward said Kurtz has made a positive first impression.

"He's very down-to-earth, hands-on," said the Rev. Bill Fichteman, pastor of the cathedral, where Kurtz will live in the apartment Kelly had used for many years.

"He moved in Friday night and was all over the place Saturday," Fichteman said, roving about to meet people such as those in an archdiocesan choir that was practicing for the installation.
The paper's religion writer, Peter Smith, also reported that the new archbishop is taking a smaller office than his predecessor in the Louisville chancery, freeing up the larger space to serve as a conference room for the archdiocesan staff. He's already taken up residence in the traditional Archbishop's Suite at the cathedral.

For the locals who can't make it and the curious from the world over, the installation will be streamed live tomorrow from 2pm (1800GMT) on the website of Louisville's ABC affiliate, WHAS.

In accepting his charge, Kurtz has called up an old reliable from the archives; at the chair, he'll be presented with the crozier of Louisville's fourth ordinary, Bishop William George McCloskey.

Whether the choice of staff is the 60 year-old Kurtz's gentle way of signaling his intent to equal McCloskey's 41-year reign is unknown....

Regardless, both in his morning jogs and everything else, long and well may he run.

SVILUPPO: Beyond the McCloskey crozier, the installation regalia will harken even further into Kentucky Catholicism's roots -- the ninth ordinary will wear the pectoral cross of his first predecessor: the founding bishop of the American frontier, the saintly Benedict Flaget.


And on Saturday, Kurtz's first parish visit will take him to Bardstown -- Flaget's see city until the diocese's 1841 move to Louisville -- for a historic pilgrimage to St Joseph's Proto-Cathedral, completed in 1821 and made a minor basilica in 2001.

On a related historical note, Assumption Day marks the 217th anniversary of the ordination of the first American bishop, John Carroll of Baltimore.

Matt Stone/Louisville Courier-Journal