All Roads Lead to... Lynch?
Before their respective appointments in the last week, not much would've seemed to link a native son pastor in rural Indiana and a Cuban-born cleric overseeing one of South Florida's largest parishes. But Bishops-elect Fernando Isern of Pueblo and Paul Etienne of Cheyenne already shared another notable common bond: Bishop Robert Lynch of St Petersburg.
In a nutshell, Lynch came to know the Wyoming appointee during his days as general secretary of the US bishops... at whose close he returned home to Miami, where Isern was the lone parochial vicar he ever had.
And so, on the mother of all episcopal blogs -- For His Friends, which he updates daily -- the bishop's posted on both... saying of Isern that:
Father Fernando had already been at St. Mark’s parish in Davie when I was appointed pastor there on June 1, 1995. The large, growing population of both Anglos and Hispanics loved him and rightly so. He worked tirelessly for them all week long....and on Etienne:
We had an interesting beginning, the two of us. Three days before I was to begin my pastorate, he took me in a delirious state first to the doctor and then by EMT transport to Hollywood Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines. I was in the emergency room all day and remember little except for the priestly presence of Father Isern giving me the sacrament of the sick....
It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, barely five full months later that the Holy Father’s representative in the U.S., the Apostolic Nuncio, called to tell me of my appointment to St. Petersburg as bishop. Bishop-elect Isern saw firsthand the sadness that accompanied giving up my first and wonderful parish and moving on and the toll it took on myself and others and today that experience is now his as well.
He will make a great bishop. It is also a great day for the priests of the Archdiocese of Miami... Miami’s priests, like my own here in the diocese, consist of many exemplary and dedicated men living what is sometimes a very challenging life and to pick one more of their number for service in the order of bishop should make them feel very good.
Father Paul Etienne first came into my life as a graduate of the College of St. Thomas in 1985. He had been a college seminarian at St. John Vianney College seminary on the campus of St. Thomas and had decided to take some time off to reflect on the commitment to celibacy. The Rector then, now Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, called our office at the Bishop’s Conference and said he had a young man who was making a mistake, that he had a vocation to priesthood but needed time. Knowing that we were looking for temporary help for the upcoming 1986 papal visit, the General Secretary at that time and my boss, Monsignor Daniel Hoye and I interviewed Paul and were impressed with his very successful background as a young business man after high school graduation and his academic achievements. Even though he came to Washington wearing “cowboy boots” we hired him and I got to know my co-worker well. He did an outstanding job for the papal visit but hated Washington and its big-city, urban environment. He was from Tell City, a small but very Catholic town along the Ohio River where the public school had been run by the parish and nuns. He was from a close-knit family of six children, faith-filled, loving parents, a small town. When the trip was over, he could not wait to return to Tell City, search for a job, and see how a relationship with a young woman he had met developed. That was November.Suffice it to say, next month in Baltimore should make for quite the reunion... and just further proof that, while it's six degrees of separation in the wider world, in the Wide World o' Church, it's closer to two and a half.
In December his older brother Bernie announced that he was entering the seminary and studying for the Evansville diocese where he was living. In the first week of January, Paul called me and said that he felt called again to the priesthood and would be approaching the Archbishop of Indianapolis about entering the seminary. At first I was incredulous, skeptical and challenging, wondering if this was not a reaction to Bernie’s decision. His younger sister had already begun the process of entering the Beech Grove Benedictine community. To make a long story short, Paul entered the North American College that Fall and four years later was ordained the first of the Etienne brothers. I vested him at his diaconate and preached his first Mass in Tell City....
One final note. The three priest brothers are avid hunters. For ordination gifts, they gave each other hunting rifles. Come deer season, the boys can be found on their wooded farm behind some blind waiting for a vulnerable deer. I know; I have inadvertently placed a phone call to them only to be greeted by the sound of a rifle going off and told to hang up....
Cheyenne’s lucky. They are getting a pastor, not a Church bureaucrat, and someone who will love and lead them.
Still in recovery from a summertime cancer scare that saw him escape death, Lynch made his first public appearance following a five-week hospital stay earlier this month to congratulate his Gulfside church's 19 new permanent deacons at the close of their ordination Mass.