Monday, December 17, 2007

Silver Jubilee

An ever-rarer milestone was marked yesterday in Cincinatti as Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk celebrated his 25th anniversary in the post.

"Howling winds and frigid weather" kept the crowd smaller than expected -- and not a few of the traveling circuit away -- but the spirit in the room remained warm.
During the Mass' humor-spiced homily, the archbishop expressed his "gratitude" for the highs and the lows of the past 25 years. While he joked he was tempted "to name names and settle scores," he took the high road. He made no direct mention of the church's sexual abuse scandal, priest shortage, closing parishes, consolidating schools, declining donations or rising costs. The only name he named belonged to his predecessor, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

The cathedral was not filled to its 900-person capacity. About 250 attended the reception - a bit more than one for each of the 221 parishes.

Twelve bishops and one cardinal were invited. Just six bishops - "the strong ones," Pilarczyk quipped to the congregation of "hearty souls" - attended.

During a break in receiving well-wishers at the reception, the archbishop blamed the cold weather for the no-shows.

He felt "grateful" for the turnout and for the standing ovation at his homily's conclusion.

Those in attendance witnessed a one-hour and 47-minute ceremony rich in pomp and pageantry. Prayers were punctuated by fanfares, processionals, pungent clouds of incense and flickering candles....

Pilarczyk was also in fine voice. Wearing ornate robes in deep shades of purple and gold, he spoke in a relaxed, conversational tone as he listed the people he remembers with "gratitude."

The list began with his parents and ended with critics "who were (or are) convinced that I am totally unsuited for the responsibilities I have been given."...

The archbishop's barber, Emilio Ferrari, attended, "because he is a great man, kind, generous."

The barber added that his customer is "a good tipper."

Ferrari said he cuts the archbishop's hair for free.

"Everybody knows the church has no money," Ferrari said with a smile. Then he yanked on his hair.

Everybody also knows, he added, the archbishop doesn't have that much to cut.

A theologian and classicist viewed by many as the US hierarchy's smartest bulb, there's seemingly not a national post Pilarczyk hasn't held. Atop the list: board-chair of the Catholic University of America, chair of ICEL, chair of the bishops' committees on Doctrine, Liturgy and Priorities and Plans -- and, of course, vice-president and president of the episcopal conference.

A native son and auxiliary bishop before his 1982 appointment to the top job, Pilarczyk was 48 on taking the reins of the fold of 500,000. Only three other US archbishops have marked silver jubilees in recent years: Patrick Flores in San Antonio, Oscar Lipscomb in Mobile and Thomas Kelly in Louisville. (Flores and Kelly have since retired.)

As things stand, the next in line to mark a quarter-century is Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, who'd reach his 25th in September 2010.

SVILUPPO: While it's a rarity these days to see one bishop marking a 25th in his post, the confluence of two at the same time is even more elusive. But over the weekend, it happened along both sides of the Ohio River.

As Pilarczyk marked his Silver Jubilee in Cincinatti, Bishop John McRaith did the same in Owensboro, his diocese of 50,000 along Kentucky's western edge. In a repeat of his 1982 ordination, Archbishop Kelly -- now retired -- preached... except this time, the event wasn't held in an arena.

Described as a "beautiful" person, the 73 year-old prelate was feted by five bishops, with most of his 70-odd priests and a crowd of 400 in attendance. The diocese reports some of the highest averages for weekly Mass attendance in the country, with a fold-wide Sunday turnout of about 60%.

PHOTO: Leigh Taylor/Cincinatti Enquirer