Friday, June 05, 2015

In Santa Fe, Installation Comes For the Archbishop

If you can't figure out the headline, suffice it to say, a little literacy will get you far.

For just the fourth time in the reign of Francis (while, in Jersey, the wait continues), yesterday saw a Stateside metropolitan made as John Wester was installed in the mother church of the American Southwest as Santa Fe's 12th archbishop, delivering a strong call for a merciful church in the spirit of the Pope who named him.

Here below, the full preach:

Speaking of spirit and ritual, meanwhile, the cultural influences that've shaped New Mexico Catholicism over four centuries were front and center, from the turquoise-studded pectoral cross Wester donned (a copy of the one invariably worn by his predecessor), to the 1700s-vintage penitent society which sang one of its hymns at Communion, and above all, the Pueblo tribe of natives who swooped and chanted their way into the sanctuary just before the final prayer:

On a context note, despite the immense Hispanic legacy in the "Land of Enchantment," perhaps the most extraordinary sign of the times in this file is that the Utah church the new archbishop leaves behind has a heavier Latino dominance today than the community he's going into – a presence that, in Mormon Country's rapidly-growing statewide diocese (one quadrupled in size over the last two decades), has been estimated as high as 80 percent. Yet even as the last two Salt Lake bishops have been remarkably fluent in LDS – a bond testified to by the presence of one of the community's Quorum of the Twelve (in essence, the Mormon College of Cardinals) at yesterday's Mass – their Spanish has proven a bit more challenging... and now, with the appointment of Wester's successor, the opportunity to fill the ever-increasing need has returned. In any event, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more touching tribute as Wester left Utah than the lament of the Vietnamese priest there who mused that, with the transfer, "I have lost a valued customer for haircuts."

No date has emerged for the local Mass at which – in a return to tradition dictated by Francis – the new archbishop will receive his pallium at home in the presence of the people. The first such rites the US has seen since 1984 (when John Paul II moved the ceremony to Rome), the conferral liturgies for both Wester and Archbishop Cupich of Chicago are expected to take place later this summer, after the home-field duo concelebrate at the Vatican on the 29th's feast of Saints Peter and Paul alongside the Pope and the world's other metropolitans named over the past year.