Thursday, April 29, 2010

"To Lead, Not Goad; To Inspire, Not Shame; To Encourage, and Not Rebuke the Sheep"

Chrism still fresh on his head (and the ring conspicuous by its absence), for his first pastoral visit as head of the Scranton church, Bishop Joe Bambera lunched at a local soup kitchen yesterday... with plans to stop at the area's other two within the next week.

As one born Scrantonian wrote from exile, "my heart is warmed"... and lest anyone didn't jump through the hoops to catch it earlier, here's the crux of the tenth bishop's closing remarks from his Monday ordination (fullvid) -- a worthy summary of the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties facing not just the gang up the Blue Route, but no shortage of us far afield:

For even more, a special ordination edition of the local Catholic Light has dropped.

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In a unique turn of papal praise, the Scranton bull termed its "beloved community" one that "among the dioceses in America, shines brilliantly with a dignity acquired over the course of years."

Indeed, that's so true that what the "Electric City" wants from Rome, it gets. Still, the even wider truth of the time remains that this ain't your grandfather's Stateside fold... not even your father's: in a word, the era of Northeastern dominance -- and, with it, the prevalent model guiding the American Catholic project for the last century and a half -- now lives only as history, the church's energetic future and ever-growing present on these shores having veered dramatically over the last three decades toward points South and West.

As history's big picture goes, the seismic numerical shift and changing of the ethnic guard -- and with it, a recasting of the church's tone, look and emphasis at every level -- finds no fitting parallel but the US church's first drastic sea-change: the 1840s, when the first massive waves of Irish, exiled by the Famine, swelled the Northeast, transforming its fairly small, sleepy ecclesial outposts (theretofore dominated by sparring factions of English descent) into Stateside Catholicism's unquestioned front-flank for the next 150 years.

As if the correlation between the two moments hadn't already been sufficiently clear, this age returned mightily to one of its precursor's dominant threads over recent days as -- led by the archbishops of Los Angeles and New York -- the bench took a firmly united stand on behalf of its latest migrants, fiercely rejecting what it termed a "mean-spirited" new Arizona law requiring documentation that, at its excesses, could pave the way for "the profiling of individuals based upon their appearance, manner of speaking, or ethnicity" and "the wrongful questioning and arrest of U.S. citizens and permanent residents as well as the division of families." (With this weekend bringing the annual "Pray for Immigrants" observance, prayers and other texts for nationwide parish use are being circulated.)

On a happier Southwestern note, in Texas -- where, within the last five years, Catholics overtook Baptists to become the state's largest religious grouping -- the celebrations of the change have long been afoot: in late 2007, Houston received the first cardinal given a new region of the country in over a half-century... earlier this month the head of Lone Star Country's longtime lead see was thrust into the stratosphere as the archbishop-in-waiting of the nation's largest local church... and on Tuesday, the US' eighth-largest city had its first turn at the coming-out party as twin auxiliaries were ordained (fullvid) to serve a Dallas fold whose Catholic population has ballooned sixfold in just the last two decades, now numbering some 1.2 million -- a size rivaling or besting most of the country's best-known and most-storied ecclesial outposts... and with an astonishing numbers of adults joining in, to boot.

The last time an American see greeted multiple auxiliaries came in 2006, as Boston received two. That North Texas can share a distinction of the kind with these shores' onetime flagship is a sign of the times... and lest anyone thinks otherwise, it won't be another half-decade before a bumper-crop of auxiliaries appears again: already well overdue, the 1.3 million-member archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is on-deck to receive two assistant high-hats before year's end.

Considering that all of five auxiliaries have been named in the other 49 states combined over the last year... well, you get the idea.

All that said, not even the presence of Houston's cardinal and LA's newly-named coadjutor -- and, indeed, not even a very proud Grandpa Ted (on hand to help birth "Grandsons" 4 and 5) -- could eclipse Tuesday's lead line as Dallas' day... and underscoring not just the expectations on his new top lieutenants, but likewise the rich pastoral context of the vibrant Texas church, K-Far's ordination homily included (alongside this post's headline) a powerful exhortation that Bishops Doug Deshotel and Mark Seitz not just serve the flock, but "revere" it:

For the more text-friendly, here's the full preach... with a third province possibly to follow.

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And lastly, as a hat-trick week on the Circuit winds down, it's worth noting that one figure joins past and present... both over the decades and the last three days.

As a reader corrected, Monday's note on all-time Stateside bishop-makers actually has a third figure with 15 ordinations to his name (all of them tied not for third, but fifth): New York's Terence Cardinal Cooke, who succeeded Francis Spellman at 47 on account of his brilliance with the ledgers... but would come to surpass his predecessor by virtue of his quiet holiness.

Through his former secretary who'd likewise go onto the red hat, the "Cookie" line was passed forward Tuesday in Dallas. And in a different way, it continues tomorrow along the banks of the St Lawrence as the latest occupant of 452 Madison presides over his first episcopal ordination as head of the Empire State province, elevating Bishop-elect Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg, the first native son tapped to lead the North Country church in nearly a century... and a choice that, this time around, clearly heeded the local sentiment over the two-decade pattern that saw the post become a "revolving door," its last three holders each coming and going within five years.
(The 2pm Eastern rites will be webstreamed.)

Back to Cooke, though, mid-month saw a significant moment in the drive for his beatification as -- in one of those only-in-New York moments -- Pope Benedict was personally given the positio, the exhaustively-researched case for his sanctity, by Archbishops Tim Dolan and Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore (another former secretary to the cardinal), the cause's vice-postulator Msgr Joseph Giandurco, and the longtime lead champion of "Saint Cookie" Patricia Handal, head of the Big Apple's Cardinal Cooke Guild. (...and dear Aloysius looking down from above.)

The seventh archbishop is just one of several New Yorkers with causes pending, and the roster
reads like a microcosm of American Catholicism's multifaceted diversity: the pioneering Dorothy Day and Isaac Hecker; the Haitian-born Pierre Touissant and the Cuban priest-journalist Felix Varela... and of course, the figure who, in terms of impact, could well be considered the Stateside church's most significant son of all: one Fulton John Sheen.

Of course, the "Capital of the World" already boasts two of its own -- the first two canonized Americans -- among the heavenly host: Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton (born near the Battery in 1774) and the mother of migrants Frances Xavier Cabrini (sent there in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII, and buried near Manhattan's Northwest corner.)

And lastly, Monday sees the tenth anniversary of the death of the "last of the giants": the legendary John Cardinal O'Connor. To commemorate the occasion, a memorial conference and Mass will be held that afternoon in St Patrick's Cathedral.

He might never make it to formal sainthood... but was he ever a good priest.

Catholic Television, Diocese of Scranton(1); Texas Catholic TV(2)
PHOTOS: Aimee Dilger/Wilkes-Barre Times Leader(1); Cardinal Cooke Guild/Catholic New York(3)