Monday, February 23, 2009

"New York: Rejoice!"

A pull-quote from Milwaukee is especially fitting for this Monday morning:
“I was at the vespers when he was installed as [arch]bishop. And there’s a part where the bishop knocks on the door. Most do it timidly. Tap, tap. Not him — ‘Bang! Bang!’ It echoed through the cathedral and let everyone know that Timothy Dolan was there.”
And now, he's here. In the Capital of the World. And thank God.

This morning, many of us in no shortage of places are celebrating -- a new day for American Catholicism's flagship see and its one post that has risen to the rank of myth, sure.

But more than that, we're celebrating the ascent of a friend.

Just as there's much jubilation at Archbishop Tim Dolan's appointment to New York, there's a flood of stories of the man... many among this crowd have several, and your narrator will share his as time and chaos allow.

In the meantime, though, two pieces stand out, the first from the prophet who first foresaw a Dolan path to the Big Apple in print: Patricia Rice, who reported in June 2002 for the St Louis Post-Dispatch that the possibility was already being mentioned in Rome prior to Dolan's appointment as archbishop of Milwaukee.

Having covered Dolan for decades in his hometown, Rice's piece today for the web-only Beacon is a must-read.

And from Michael Sean Winters of America magazine -- like the nominee, a student of the great scholar of American Catholic history John Tracy Ellis -- comes a glowing first reax:
The Church in New York, and indeed all of America, rejoices this morning at the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI has named Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan to be the next Archbishop of New York.

I have never seen Archbishop Dolan that he didn’t have his arm around someone. We first met in Rome when, coincidentally enough, I was working on an article about Cardinal John O’Connor. Dolan was hosting a reception in his apartment at the North American College for Thanksgiving Day. Every American Catholic in the Eternal City seemed to be crammed into the rector’s living room. Cocktails flowed, cigars were lit, and the sense of loneliness one has when celebrating a national holiday abroad was dispersed thoroughly by Dolan’s hospitality....

It will be interesting to see how Dolan’s intellectual formation in history, so different from most hierarchs who have degrees in theology or canon law, will shape his tenure. But, the more enduring contribution of Ellis to Dolan (and to me) was his love of his own priesthood. He had never been a pastor in the canonical sense of the word. But, the day my best friend died from AIDS in 1989, when some religious leaders still considered AIDS a punishment from God, Msgr. Ellis helped me grieve, and find a faithful context for my grief, the way a good priest should. His devotion to the Eucharist was as obvious as his bias in favor of Cardinal Gibbons, whose biographer he was. Ellis was a priest's priest....

It has been easy to applaud most of Pope Benedict’s appointments. But, in choosing Dolan to assume the cathedra at St. Patrick’s, Benedict has made a truly great choice. Dolan will be great with the necessary, if unseemly, task of fundraising. He will be great with the media. He will help build up the morale of his clergy. Ellis once said that Cardinal O’Connor was "a lion" in the mold of the greatest of American bishops such as Gibbons, John Ireland, and John Hughes. Dolan could be another in that tradition, a bishop who is unafraid to love his flock, to defend his Church, and to preach to a culture that is desperately hungry for the Gospel. Two weeks ago, in the Gospel reading, Simon Peter said to Jesus, "Everyone is looking for you!" This is as true today as it was two thousand years ago, although many people not even know who they are looking for, or even that they are looking at all. It is Archbishop Dolan’s task to help them look for Christ and find him. I can’t think of a finer appointment. Rejoice indeed!
For those keen for streams of the 11am (1600GMT) press conference, best bet is to check the pages of Gotham's three main TV stations: WCBS, WNBC and WABC.

PHOTO: Reuters