Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Today in Michigan: "Benvenuto, Bishop Bernie"

Last night in Gaylord, attendees at Bishop-elect Bernie Hebda's Ordination Eve Vespers were warned of "flurries" during the service.

They exited to find three inches of snow on the ground.

Moral of the story: Pittsburgh might be chilly this time of year... but upper Michigan is colder still.

Kicking off a busy December cycle of chair-shifts, today sees the formal ascent of the Steel City native and double-Ivy alum, a Vatican official until his October appointment. Breaking with custom, though, no webstream will be available of the 2pm Mass that'll see the 50 year-old double-lawyer take the reins of his 70,000-member charge, so we'll just have to rely on the reports coming in from local press and, of course, the house regulars.

Today's rites bring together an unusual mash-up of churchfolk as the earthy, 100-strong 'Burgh delegation meets Roman officialdom, led by Hebda's former boss, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, who'll be serving as a principal co-consecrator. That said, it bears repeating that Steeler Nation hasn't just been holding its own on the football field this year (...OK, last year) -- Hebda's the third Pittsburgh priest to take the reins of a US diocese in just the last eight months: Bishop Ed Burns of Juneau was installed in April, and Bishop Paul Bradley arrived in Kalamazoo in early June.

In his homily at last night's Vespers, the bishop-elect riffed on his turn in a high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof," using the thread to reflect on what he termed his "arranged ecclesiastical marriage."

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Still to come later this month: the ordinations of Bishops-elect Paul Etienne in Cheyenne on the 9th and Fernando Isern in Pueblo the following day, Bishop-elect Paul Sirba's hatting in Duluth on the 14th, with the tour's close the next day in Providence as the well-circulated Bishop Thomas Tobin elevates his first auxiliary, Bishop-elect Bob Evans. Also, the retirement of Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati is expected to come quickly after a 20 December Mass celebrating the veteran prelate's Golden Jubilee as a priest, 35th anniversary as a bishop and 27th at the helm of the "Queen City" church; having turned 75 in August, Pilarczyk's successor-in-waiting, Coadjutor Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, was named in October 2008.

With seven Stateside sees now vacant and another seven (Cinci included) led by ordinaries serving past the retirement age of 75, the Congregation for Bishops met again on Thanksgiving morning, its recommended nods likely to surface over these Advent weeks.

PHOTOS: Diocese of Gaylord