Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Here We Go Again" – For Tyler's Bishop, A "Family" Affair

More than practically any other Appointment Day – or anything else you'll ever see on this beat – church, the following is what joy sounds like...

...not to mention – at long last – relief!

For purposes of contrast, the above might just be the most precise opposite yet of the pale-faced Funeral Brigade which received this scribe's own hometown nominee with ramrod, near-apocalyptic fright some 14 months and ten days back.

When one's lived to see moments of that sort, you appreciate welcomes like these all the more. Then again, this is Joe Strickland's Appointment Day: to know the guy and not be completely elated is to lack a soul worth its salt.

As the veterans among this crowd will know, heavy doses of both today's sentiments in Tyler extend fully back to this desk. Indeed, it's been a long almost five years since some of us stumbled unforgivably over some little rock... yet with this Saturday's news as fittingly unusual as the caliber of its choice, a brutal weight is lifted – and, as only Providence can bring to pass, in the most brilliant of ways.

More in the backstory in due course. In the meanwhile, here – before a packed "sedem" – the bishop-elect's opening remarks to his home-crowd...

...and, as expected, an exuberant – and, for a Pick Day presser, unusually detailed – question period:

The whole shebang's available in five partie – er, parts.

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While the direct appointment of an American priest to lead his native diocese is indeed exceedingly rare, thanks to one of our statisticians for correcting a piece of the morning's first word.

For the record, this morning's move in Tyler brings the eighth such domestic nod since 2003. In chronological order, for the curious, the others are Bishops George Coleman of Fall River and Peter Jugis of Chaarlotte (2003), Kevin Rhoades to Harrisburg (2004), Alex Sample of Marquette and David Choby of Nashville (both 2005), Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg and Joe Bambera of Scranton (2010).

With the exception of Rhoades – transferred to Fort Wayne-South Bend in late 2009 – the others remain at the helm of their home-churches. Among the current bench, other native sons who returned to lead their native sees after serving elsewhere include no less than five Stateside metropolitans – Cardinal Francis George OMI of Chicago, and Archbishops Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Thomas Wenski of Miami, Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Samuel Aquila of Denver – as well as Bishops Robert Muench of Baton Rouge and David Zubik of Pittsburgh.

On a perhaps even more exceptional note, with Strickland's appointment, a bishop has been tapped from the Tyler presbyterate – all told, a group of 86 – for the second time in two years. The first was the now auxiliary of Phoenix, 58 year-old Bishop Eduardo Nevares, named in 2010, who incardinated into the diocese after several years as a religious.

We'll need to check with the number crunchers, but it's seemingly impossible to think of another US locale where a similar ratio of the local clergy have gone on to the high-hat – not just within such a short space of time, but at all.

Then again – as some of us have come to learn quite well over the years – that's East Texas Catholicism for you... and with the new guy in charge, you can bet the house that the best is yet to come.

At the hand of the first cardinal of the American South, Strickland will be ordained and installed as Tyler's fourth bishop on 28 November in what he called the "biggest place we could find" – the see-city's 1,800-seat Caldwell Auditorium – a venue nearly five times the capacity of the cathedral he pastored for 16 years.