Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In San Diego, “Accompany” Man Begins – For Opening Preach, McElroy Runs Pope’s Playbook

Between the vaunted pedigree of Harvard, Stanford and the Gregorian – not to mention the lauds of admirers who've termed him the "American Martini" – over the weeks since his January appointment, the expectations on Bob McElroy going into his installation as San Diego's sixth bishop have reached levels approaching Beatlemania.

Even so, when the 61 year-old's moment came this afternoon (above), the inaugural result was impressive, all the more considering the trajectory – an auxiliary of a 450,000-member archdiocese taking the reins of a local church of a million, in the spotlight of the nation's seventh-largest city and an American Catholic chattering class which often shows a weakness at discerning the difference between the Gospel and its secular politics.

Pope Francis' third selection for a Stateside diocese of seven-figure size, it's no secret that the San Diego pick is one of the pontiff's most outspoken admirers and advocates among the Stateside bench – an attribute which arguably played a part in the surprise push which landed McElroy in the post. Accordingly, having handled his Appointment Day presser as one big, conspicuous echo of Bergoglio's ecclesial "paradigm," the installation preach took it up a further notch as the new arrival rooted himself in Francis' pastoral mandate of "accompaniment," going on to lay out "three central challenges... placed before us at this moment."

Though his challenge was explicitly directed at California's southernmost fold, it doesn't take much effort to see it extending to the wider church. Ergo, beginning with the recent tale of the two climbers who successfully scaled the "impossible" Dawn Wall of El Capitan, below is fullvid of McElroy's potent 18-minute preach:

All that said, it is curious that – for a border outpost whose Hispanic population is said to stand in the 40 percent range – the new Padre opted to deliver the homily entirely in English.

While today's rites marked the second handover of a million-member US flock in less than six months, a third could take place as soon as later this year: amid the lightest domestic appointment docket in memory (three on-deck retirements, all of one vacancy), Bishop William Murphy marks his 75th birthday on 14 May, at which point the clock starts ticking for Long Island's diocese of Rockville Centre and its 1.5 million Catholics.

Yet even the all-suburban mega-fold won't be the premier US seat to come open in 2015 – that comes in mid-November, when Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington reaches the resignation age.

SVILUPPO: In pre-Mass comments reported by the local Union-Tribune, McElroy pushed back on a move currently afoot in the California legislature to remove the statue of soon-to-be Saint Junipero Serra from the US Capitol's Statuary Hall, calling the Franciscan missionary a "foundational figure" of the Golden State.

With each state entitled to two likenesses of famous residents in the Capitol, the Sacramento effort has sought to replace Serra's niche with that of Sally Ride, the San Diego-based astronaut who was the first woman to enter outer space.

Amid controversy over the treatment of Native Americans in the missionary era, Serra's canonization without a second miracle will take place in Washington during this September's PopeTrip on Francis' own initiative. The 18th century friar will become the second saint enshrined in the building, joining St Damien deVeuster – Hawaii's beloved "leper priest" – who was canonized in 2009, fifty years after the 50th state sent his statue to Washington.

While Father Damien's feast is marked nationally on May 10th, today marks the 126th anniversary of the Belgian-born missionary's death from what's now termed Hansen's disease.