Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Our Journey Has Been The Blessing"

Archbishop-elect Donald Wuerl of Washington said farewell to his home diocese today, as he led a Mass of Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh's St Paul's Cathedral. Wuerl -- seen here greeting his aunt, Mary Ellen Sortino -- will be installed in Washington in ten days' time.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell led a massive turnout of civic officials, clergy and faithful as the archbishop-elect presided over his last liturgy at the helm of the Pittsburgh diocese, which he's led since 1988.

Wuerl has been the longest-serving bishop of the diocese since Bishop Hugh Boyle, who led it from 1921 to 1950. All but one of Boyle's successors have gone on to become cardinals, a fate expected to befall the incoming Washington prelate in short order.

In an extensive homily summarizing the highs and lows of his tenure, the 11th bishop of Pittsburgh notably referred to Benedict XVI's predecessor as "Pope John Paul the Great."

Some snips:
Years ago, when I was a seminarian in my first year of theological studies, Pope Paul VI visited the North American College. He greeted each of us with a copy of a volume of his talks when he was Cardinal of Milan. I was struck in particular by one of his homilies, when he took possession of his cathedral church and was installed as Archbishop of Milan.

He began, in effect, by saying that he was grateful that there were so many people who had come to the cathedral; otherwise he would have had to go out to find them.

That line from a homily of all those decades ago came flooding back to my heart today as I prepared for this celebration. I am so grateful that you are here today so that I can tell you how much what we have tried to do together means to me. And also to tell you what your collaboration and friendship, service and ministry has brought to the Church and to the wider community in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Had you not come here today, I certainly would have felt the need to go find you....

Jesus challenged all of his disciples, the clergy and laity in his Church, to be a light to the world. It is also the role of the bishop to bring the light of the Gospel to all of the discussions and debate that helps to mold our culture and our society.

The voice of the most cherished values of a significant portion of the community, the voice of the great teaching tradition rooted in God's word, in God's wisdom, must be heard in all of the forums where the threads of the fabric of this culture are woven together.
On so many occasions this aspect of ministry brought me into a relationship with so many of you. Looking around this Cathedral Church I see reflections of the academic community, the health care community, the cultural community, the neighborhoods and the political community. The one thing we all share together is our mutual vision and goal for a better world, a truly good and just society. I am grateful to all of you for our work, time and efforts together....

For the past 18 years, it has been my privilege and joy and, at times, challenge to serve with you in the great mystery that is Christ's Church present and at work in our world. These past 18 years have been our time together to try, to the best of our ability, to manifest God's Kingdom among us.

Our prayer "Thy Kingdom Come" has reverberated throughout these six counties in everything that all of us have tried to do. And the best part is that we have tried to do it together. Let us thank God for this wonderful time, for our turn at manifesting the Kingdom, of building up the Body of Christ.

PHOTOS: AP/Gene J. Puskar