Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Traveling NAC Show

Yesterday's feast of St Matthew provided two red-letter gatherings for alums of the Pontifical North American College... for reasons beyond the color of the day.

Against the backdrop of the parity of the loonie to the greenback for the first time in 31 years, a goodly number of Gianicolo-dwellers past and present converged on Pembroke, Ontario yesterday for the ordination of the diocese of 63,000's new shepherd, Bishop Michael Mulhall, NAC '89.

Since Mulhall's appointment on 30 June, the see city at the convergence of the Muskrat and Ottawa Rivers has been dubbed the "Cradle of Bishops," and with good reason. The new bishop, 45, was named the day after Pembroke's two previous ordinaries received the pallia tied to their new posts, and both those predecessors -- now-Archbishops Brendan O'Brien of Kingston and Richard Smith of Edmonton -- were also in their 40s on their respective arrivals at the doors of St Columbkille Cathedral. Yesterday also marked the 125th anniversary of the ordination of the diocese's first bishop, Narcisse Zepherin Lorrain, whose original crozier was entrusted to his seventh successor during the liturgy.

A decade-long official at the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Mulhall -- a low-key cleric who loves to fish -- was vicar-general of his native Peterborough at the time of his elevation, also pastoring a parish there. The ordination was performed by the nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, assisted by the metropolitan, Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ of Ottawa and Bishop Nicola de Angelis of Peterborough. The US delegation was led by Bishop Frank DeWane of Venice, a friend of Mulhall's from the Florida prelate's days as undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Giving credit where it's due, Ventura scored another ace with the Pembroke appointment -- total time-lapse between Smith's March transfer to Alberta and yesterday's resumption of ordinary governance: six months, minus a day.

Indeed, Yanks, such things are still possible.... That's not to say, however, that the delays on this side of the 49th Parallel don't have their reasons... and wise ones at that.

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Closer to Rome, another delegation of NAC-wishers found themselves in Louvain yesterday for the installation of Msgr Ross Shechterle as rector of the Belgian university's American College of the Immaculate Conception. The festivities at the oldest foreign seminary established by the US bishops happily coincided with the new rector's 47th birthday; Shechterle served on the North American's faculty before taking the reins of the Louvain house over the summer.

Presided over by the college's board chair, Bishop David Ricken of Cheyenne (shown above with the new rector), the conferral of the traditional symbols of office -- the keys to Louvain's chapel and record book -- were augmented by the Holy See as Shechterle, a Milwaukee native, was vested in his new robes as a Chaplain of His Holiness prior to the Mass.

Earlier in the week, the college's faculty and students paid their traditional house call to the local ordinary, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels, who offered the following advice: "Pray. Study hard. Love the Church. Pray without ceasing. Prayer is the ground, the foundation of your life of ministry. Become intimate with Christ. Study hard. The Church needs intelligent, educated priests. And love the Church. If you do not love the Church, do not start this path toward priesthood."

The Belgian primate -- who recently marked his golden jubilee of priestly ordination with the release of a book-length interview titled "Big Boys Don't Cry" -- is preparing to undertake a speaking tour in the States, with talks on Populorum Progressio in San Francisco and the liturgy at Catholic University of America in DC on the roster.

The latter engagement will launch an annual memorial lecture honoring Msgr Fred McManus, the father of the American liturgical renewal who died in November 2005.

Next up on the NAC reunion calendar: the 1 October installation of the Hill's former rector (and current board chair), Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, in the Premier See of Baltimore. However, it's not the only classmate meet-up the native New Yorker's got on tap -- he'll be at his 50th high-school reunion tonight.

SVILUPPO: Video highlights of the Pembroke ordination have been posted.

Diocese of Pembroke
PHOTO 2: American College of the Immaculate Conception